The New York Mets have several capable third basemen. Jeff McNeil played lots of innings in the position and will do it again in 2020, while Jed Lowrie, if he can ever overcome his balky knee, can also play there. But a third candidate is lurking around.
J.D. Davis is known for his potent bat. After all, he had a .307/.369/.527 line with 22 home runs in 453 plate appearances. The Mets need to find a way to have his bat in the lineup most days.
In fact, Davis started last season as a third baseman but he was overmatched there. Defending the hot corner, he had a -1.6 UZR, -6.1 UZR/150 and -9 DRS in 220 innings.
He wasn’t much better in left field but held his own. This time around, the Mets seem determined to give him reps at third base again. The idea is for him to become a capable defender to occupy the position in the days Robinson Cano needs rest.
In that scenario, Jeff McNeil, the Mets’ regular third sacker, would slide over second and Davis would be on the hot corner. That could also open up left field for Yoenis Cespedes, if he is healthy enough to play.
According to infield coach Gary DiSarcina, the plan is for Davis to practice 50 percent of the time at third in spring training.
The New York Post reported that DiSarcina traveled to Sacramento in the offseason to work in a new approach with Davis.
The Mets are trying a new approach
Davis himself explained what they worked on: “Every coach had told me to try to stay low to the ground, so we basically flipped it to more of a tennis player being on the receiving end,” Davis said Tuesday. “I’m a little more upright, and it’s helped me kind of do a small jump before the ball comes to home plate and that way my feet are more set on the ground, and that has helped me out with my reaction time of reading baseballs and reading tough hops, and it’s been working out perfect for me at least for that situation.”
Given Cano and Lowrie’s fragility, Davis could receive significant playing time at third. “He needs reps in a game, and he’s going to fail,” DiSarcina said. “His first couple of spring games he might make two or three errors because he is trying something new, trying to incorporate a new technique into his game, and he’s going to have some rough spots, and it’s up to us as an organization to kind of deal with that. I just don’t want him falling back on his old habits of getting too low.”
The New York Mets’ coach also spotted something on Davis’ throwing motion. “He would rush throws and try to show everybody how good of an arm he had. … I am so proud of him since Sacramento he’s worked on his footwork and ability to get under control instead of constantly throwing on the run and trying to throw it as hard as he can,” the coach said.