There hasn’t been much doubt that J.D. Davis can hit. He got some very limited playing time with the Astros in 2017 and 2018 but burst onto the scene with the Mets after being acquired in a trade prior to the 2019 season. He went on to hit 22 home runs that year and slashed .307/.369/.527 for a wRC+ of 137. Defensively, the Mets put him in left field more often than his primary position of third base. He graded poorly in both spots but he still hit enough that he produced 2.5 wins above replacement on the year, per the calculations of FanGraphs.
Although 2019 was the “juiced ball” season, Davis wasn’t a one-year fluke at the plate, continuing to hit in the years since. His .247/.371/.389 line in the shortened 2020 season was a bit beneath the year before but still good enough for a 118 wRC+. In 2021, he made multiple trips to the injured list due to recurring issues in his left hand and only got into 73 games but still batted .285/.384/.436 for a 129 wRC+ when he was healthy enough to step up to the plate.
Last year, he was hitting .238/.324/.359 for the Mets through 66 games for a wRC+ of just 102 when the Giants took a flier on him, acquiring him alongside three other players in the deadline deal that sent Darin Ruf to Queens. The Elk Grove native quickly got things back on track after moving to the West Coast, slashing .263/.361/.496 down the stretch for a 142 wRC+.
Even with that strong finish, he didn’t have a secure hold on a full-time gig coming into this year. The Giants had seen one of their prospects, David Villar, perform well in his major league debut last year by hitting .231/.331/.455 in 52 games. Back in mid-February, the club’s president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said the Giants considered Villar to be their starting third baseman heading into Spring Training.
Despite all that solid work at the plate, the major concern about Davis has been his defense. From 2019 to 2022, Davis was considered to be worth -25 Defensive Runs Saved at third base, one of the five worst marks in the majors at that position for that time frame. Ultimate Zone Rating and Outs Above Average weren’t quite as negative but also graded him as being subpar.
The club clearly liked Davis enough to acquire him but they also wanted to see what they had in Villar, a player much younger and with more club control. That left Davis with some work to do, something that Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle discussed with him as Spring Training was just getting going. Davis talked about how he had been working with bench coach and infield/baserunning instructor Kai Correa on his defense, particularly his footwork, while manager Gabe Kapler highlighted his propensity for swinging and missing at pitches in the strike zone as his weak point on offense.
We’re now roughly three months removed from Zaidi declaring Villar the club’s third baseman and that profile on Davis, and the picture has completely changed since then. Davis hit a torrid .311/.354/.467 in the spring while Villar limped to a line of .143/.167/.286. Villar still got six starts at third base in the club’s first 10 regular season games but only got two more after that as he’s hit .148/.240/.318 on the year so far and was optioned to the minors a couple days ago.
Davis, meanwhile, has taken the job at the hot corner and is running off with it. He already has seven home runs and is slashing .294/.368/.492 for a wRC+ of 136, just a hair under his 2019 breakout. His average exit velocity is in the 95th percentile of qualified hitters and his hard hit rate 94th. His contact rate on pitches in the zone is 82.9%, the highest of his career. His 25% strikeout rate is still higher than average, but it’s a big improvement over the past two seasons, each of which saw him finish above 32%.
But perhaps most remarkably, his defensive grades have improved dramatically. DRS has Davis at league-average at third this year, no small feat considering his woeful grading in previous years. UZR gives him a grade of 1.1 for the season so far, one of the top 10 among major league third basemen. Outs Above Average currently has him at +4, trailing only Josh Rojas, Ke’Bryan Hayes and Eugenio Suárez at the hot corner. This is a small sample size of just 259 2/3 innings, so it’s too soon to decisively declare Davis a plus defender, but there’s seems to be a budding consensus that his glovework has taken a meaningful step forward.
Davis seems to be in peak form both at the plate and in the field, which has allowed him to produce 1.3 fWAR already in just 38 games, more than halfway to his career-high of 2.5 from that 2019 season. While the Giants are surely thrilled by those developments, it could lead them to a difficult decision a few months from now. Overall, the club has struggled to an 18-23 start to the season, putting them behind the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Padres in the National League West. There’s still plenty of time for the club to turn things around, but there’s a chance they may have to consider some selling when the trade deadline approaches.
Davis came into this season with between four and five years of service time. That means he can still be retained via arbitration for 2024 and isn’t an impending free agent. The club won’t feel they absolutely have to move him, but it would at least warrant some consideration if they find themselves outside the playoff race. Given his strong performance, year-and-a-half of control and modest $4.21MM salary this year, he would surely garner plenty of interest. There’s a handful of contenders with question marks at third base who would likely pick up the phone, such as the Twins, Phillies and Yankees. The Giants could flip him for some younger and cheaper players, then perhaps give Villar another shot at the big leagues in the latter months of the season. The alternative would be holding onto Davis and hoping for better results as a team next year before he reaches the open market.
Of course, the club will be hoping they play well enough over the next few months they don’t even have to consider that path. Despite their sluggish start, they’re only two games back of a Wild Card spot at the moment due to slow starts from other contenders like the Phillies, Mets and Padres. There’s no sense in shoveling dirt on their season just yet, but front offices have to consider all potential avenues and will surely be having conversations about how they want to proceed.
Time will tell how that plays out, but for now, it’s all good news. The Giants sent Ruf to the Mets and acquired Davis less than a year ago. Even if it were just a one-for-one swap, that deal already looks like a huge win, since Ruf has gone in the opposite direction since then. He was released by the Mets earlier this year, briefly returned to the Giants, and just yesterday signed with the Brewers. Of course, it wasn’t a one-for-one swap. The Giants also got Thomas Szapucki, Nick Zwack and Carson Seymour in the trade. If any of those pitchers can develop into useful pieces, it will be icing on a cake that is already very sweet thanks to Davis.
Mets just wanted rid of Davis. Had to bribe someone with 3 prospects to do so. They never wanted Ruf.
Then that makes it an even worse trade.
Perhaps the worse take ever.
I didn’t agree with that take either but a Mets fan with a much higher IQ than any of us said it.
Oh, now I get it. Thanks!
YourDreamGM —That’s simply not true. Ruf has made a career of hitting lefties which is why the Mets went after him. It just turned out that Ruf cratered with NY, but back with the Giants this season, he hit quite well though they let him go for roster space.
Does Hayes have more value being moved off of 3b? If he continues being a 3b that is opsing under 700, he needs to be over right? Like his defense will 100% translate to say 2b.
I’m mainly asking because the pirates can’t think “we have 3b covered until 2030”. They have to be thinking “at least his defense alone justifies his salary”.
A bats a bat. Might as well play him at his best defensive position. 2 of the last 3 1st round picks are 2b.
I get that. But, I would have to think Pitt would approach the draft under the assumption 3b is open. I understand drafts are “best pick available” but you also consider need to some extent.
I’m just saying 3b isn’t locked down like it was assumed to be after his brief call up. If there’s a guy producing 3b offensive numbers with passable defense then Pitt would probably roll the dice like Colorado did with having McMahon at 2b for a short time. Admittedly, to poor results but they still attempted it.
They aren’t using their 1st round pick on a 3b this year. Any other round the odds of that player being a impact bat that can only play 3b is slim. Pirates like pitching in rounds 2 3 4 so even slimmer. Of all the positions it isn’t likely that 2024 is the year a 3b only is best available. Even so or if they take one in 25 26, the prospect will be in minors for 3 or 4 years. Hayes will be a free agent by then or someone will have to play another position for a year. Hayes could always be traded and Pirates haven’t let anyone leave without bringing back something anyways. They traded away the most popular player they had in 40 years. Trading Hayes won’t be a problem. Don’t know if 2020 and early 2021 were fluke or if wrist injury hurt. But he doesn’t seem to elevate the ball anymore.
I’m not saying they will draft that position high. Just that the position isn’t locked down like it was assumed to be prior so it factors into their thinking. Why would they when they have Hayes as passable? They have Johnson, Rodriguez, Gonzales, Peguero, even Triolo. All those guys play 2b and ss (besides Rodriguez). You can’t have Cruz penciled in at short, Hayes struggling to hit period, and a logjam at 2b.
Back to the contract though. I don’t think the pirates believe they have 3b figured out yet even though they extended Hayes, do you? They expected significant surplus value and got adequate return.
Rodriguez is better suited at c rf 1b. Peguero isn’t a mlb regular or even a player at this point. Would need to hit to play 2b and throw accurately to play ss 3b. Gonzales has a huge hole in his swing. Not much of a factor if not fixed. Triolo can field, ideal utility player. Johnson pretty much 2b only. It’s a lot of hopes and dreams to see any of those guys being better options than Cruz Hayes. At this point I wouldn’t count on Gonzales Peguero as even being place holders for Johnson. Pirates player development is weak. For position players it’s awful. By the time it improves enough to pluck all stars in later rounds Hayes will be gone. Odds of them doing it now are lower than the already low odds of a great system.
I think they signed the guy he is with hopes of improving bat path or getting more consistency. Hayes certainly didn’t want to bet on that version of him showing up.
Bird up. I more or less agree. Except the player development aspect. They have adjusted their approach in recent years. So, I think there could be some noticeable improvements in that regard.
Pitching much improved. Still needs to be better but nice start. Hitting who have they developed. It’s year 4 and look at the roster. Cruz Hayes is it. Castro nice vs lhp. Reynolds all Vandy and Giants. Suwinski maybe. Davis the #1 pick well developed bat out of college. Mets sent over a nice Endy already. All the Huntington guys or traded for guys haven’t seen significant improvement.
Davis’ statcast data last year was EXTREMELY good (on the hitting side). He was posting elite hard hit/exit velo data and had a barrel rate in the 97th percentile. It had seemed very strange to me that Villar was being given the nod as the ‘everyday guy’ this offseason when Davis was shaping up to be one of the best hitters in the league.
The breakout is only a surprise to those that prefer reading the back of the baseball card to tell them if a guy is good or not.
Lol Mets who are so clueless they haven’t figured out yet how to add a DH with a $ 350 MM Payroll.
They wasted last year trying to use Cano and then the platoon of Dom Smith & JD Davis which failed. Then there was their trading deadline solution of a platoon DH of Vogelbach and Ruf and we know how that ended. This year they still have Vogelbach and Pham or Canha or Escobar and they are a dumpster fire. They refuse to promote their AAA solutions Vientos and Mauricio why not nobody can understand.
hind sight is 20 / 20 but the trade Ruf for Davis made no sense from any angle at the time. If you kept Davis though you would not have been putting the hot dog vendor at 3rd after all those injuries (Giullorme, Baty, Escobar) with McNeil being day to day and only able to hit. If the mets got even the same production before the trade they probably would have had the one more game they needed to skip the wildcard. I dunno what the giants did to him but he turned into a better hitter than he ever was and would be a better option for us than any dh we have now.
Cano i think they were hoping to salvage any hope of that 40+ million still owed to him even in a trade so i dont blame them for that and Dom just wow … he pissed off some voodoo lady.
Agree at the minimum Mauricio should come up. You could move Mcneil to outfield a bit more and rotate 2nd and short with Mauricio to give Lindor or McNeil a bit of a break and dh them some more then push Canha as needed to 1st to give pete a few days here and there at dh.
As a Giants AND Mets fan, I’m thrilled with Davis. I watch almost every game and Davis’ glove is suddenly elite, so much so it wouldn’t surprise me if he got a Gold Glove (But of course there’s Arenado).
This was an amazing trade for the Giants. Even a 1 for 1 the Giants got the best deal. Better hitter, less money, younger. Then add in players just a straight fleece.
The Mets should have gotten way better for Davis. Glove was always a concern even before mets so a little surprised that came around, but the hitting was like murphy’s back in the day decent especially in spurts but nothing to call home about then suddenly just exploded. Happy for him and flores too.
and don’t forget…they didn’t offer a contract to Brandon Drury after a solid 2021 season in a PH role and let him walk to Cinci for 700k. And now 2 years later they’re still searching the scrap heaps for a DH.
Mets don’t know how to put a winning team together. They just like the padres get the best available no matter what it cost and pay no mind to what we got in our dugout. Over paying players isn’t the way to win games lol
How can a team be so good at turning other teams’ spare parts into useful pieces, and so bad at developing pieces of their own?
Most recently, Schmidt, Doval, Webb, Harrison were developed from within. More to come shortly.
Tell ‘em Candlestoked! To add to your list, Patrick Bailey, Luis Matos, Vaun Brown, Cole Waites, Wade Meckler all on the way too! I loved Schmitt from the moment he was drafted, kid is legit! He eats, drinks, loves, baseball!
Candlestoked — Just to be accurate it’s “Schmitt.”
I’m as hyped as anyone about Schmitt but let’s pump the brakes considering it’s been eight games.
Happy to him find success and it isn’t just because he’s one of the more cost effective players they have. Glad he’s getting to shine in front of his home crowd so to speak!
Man puts ego in the back pocket, man uses team resources to work on weaknesses. Man and team benefit. I love me some JD. My favourite Giant. Trading the man would sting.
Hi foppert! I love JD too. Just goes about his business. He worked so hard this winter and he’s shockingly looked like a gold glover so far this year. He hasn’t looked quite as sharp since Schmitt was brought up, I hope it’s not bothering him.
Left side of our infield is really full of options, someone might get traded at the deadline but that’s too soon to speculate and depth is good if everyone gets playing time. So much will happen between now and the deadline, it’ll be cool to see how it all shakes out!
You missed another gem of a game tonight! Hope you are well!
All good Agnes. Burned a bit of internet following tonight’s game ! Go Giants.
Love how JD went public during the Spring by saying he wanted to win a gold glove. Man of his word !
Glad you got to catch some of it foppert! Good vibes are starting to gel!
agnes gooch — I wouldn’t worry about JD getting anxious about Schmitt. Schmitt will take over SS full time as soon as Craw walks into the sunset. A pretty nice infield with Lamonte, Thairo, Schmitt & Davis.
I never wanted JD Davis gone unless the Mets were going to get a really good young controllable reliever. After last years trade deadline, I was completely shocked by how bad the moves that were made by Billy EFFLer. You can go back to the last years deadline comment threads of me complaining of the moves, I’m not lying. You had morons on this website trying to justify these trades of VogelFat and Darin RufToWatch. Not to mention that our bullpen piece that was supposed to save us was Mychal GivensAwayTheLead. Only a fool would actually think those moves made sense. I’ll give my one critiziscim of JD Davis, he was unable to hit fastballs that were above the 95mph range, and his defense was god awful. With that being said, Showalter and InEppler ruined him last year by platooning him. JD Davis needs consistent playing time AND he can hit both lefties and righties. But what can I really do, I’m just a fan thats been right at just about everything these past 3 years. Thats what happens when you watch the games with your own eyes instead of relying on fancy useless stats to make an arguement for a bad player. Just look at VogelFat, hes 3rd in OPS on the team. Yet, hes a net negative on all accounts. Can’t hit lefties, can’t run, can’t steal, can’t score from 2nd on a single, can’t score from first on a double, can’t hit homeruns. He gets on base, ok so what? He doesn’t lead to scoring anyone unless the guys behind him hit a homerun, which is sad. I don’t think I’m the best evaluator of talent, but I certainly think that Billy Eppler has no clue on how to construct a competant roster, and thats excluding how he has a 400 million dollar budget. This isn’t all on him, he didn’t sign Lindor to the worst contract in baseball, and I’m not going to blame Diaz getting hurt on him either. With that being said, our bullpen is relying on 2 40 year olds to save us games, and 2 40 years olds in our rotation to carry us to the playoffs. I already knew these were awful moves and that they weren’t going to work. The bullpen’s 40 year olds have been fine but everyone else in there belongs in single A and/or the Mexican League. I predicted the Mets to win 88 games at the beggining of the season. As of right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if we finish under .500. I have no faith that Silly Eppler can call up the right players and make the right trades in order to propel our season back into the playoff picture
Mets are finally promoting Mark Vientos
Most teams would have promoted him a month ago. It took him hitting like 7 homeruns in his last 20 plate appearances to get called up, pathetic
Not sure if eppler is a good gm, said the same thing about dipoto, Arte was making more decisions that wasn’t his seem to turn Seattle around, but they all get dumpster diving pitching.
@Darragh, if you wrote this to piss Mets fans off, well done. You’re timing is impeccable.
Don’t blame the messenger. Fact is, Davis has been lights out, both with the bat and glove.
But It Do
Why throw the word meanwhile in the middle of your sentence, breaking up its flow, when you could just start the sentence with it?
Hopefully Zaidi moves him at the trade deadline.