After an offseason of rumors that linked the Mets to Kris Bryant, Matt Chapman, and Eugenio Suarez, the Mets’ 2021 third baseman turned out to be J.D. Davis all along. It’s unclear how aggressive the new regime was in attempting to acquire a new third baseman, but throughout the offseason Davis’s spot on the team was far from guaranteed.
After a breakout 2019 season, expectations were high for Davis heading into 2020. Unfortunately for him, things never really clicked once the delayed and shortened season got underway, and the year could easily be written off as a disappointment. Davis hit just .247/.371/.389 with six home runs and 19 RBIs. He did sport a solid 116 wRC+, but he is going to need to hit more than that if he wants to overcome his defensive shortcomings.
While playing primarily third base last year, he had -8 DRS, which could be a large part of why the team was so active on the third base market. For his part, Davis took the rumors in stride and went so far as to say it was “cool” to be involved in trade rumors for elite players, which to him validated how far he has come as a major league player.
If there was ever going to be a season in which Davis puts it all together, this year would be it. He talked openly about how much he missed having hitting coach Chili Davis around in 2020, who opted out over concerns with COVID-19. Chili is now vaccinated and has returned to the team, but the two already worked out together in the offseason and came up with a fix to J.D.’s mechanical issues that plagued him at the plate last year.
Another issue that Davis talked about was not having the “comfort of failing,” trying to be too perfect when he didn’t play the same position every day. Being given the opportunity to fail and learn third base and having an elite defender and teacher on his left could benefit him greatly.
So now that the 27-year-old is reunited with Chili Davis and has Francisco Lindor giving him pointers in the field, J.D. Davis has all the tools to get better. The Mets’ lineup is also deep enough now that he’ll be pushed further down, and the pressure to produce won’t be as great. Steamer projects that Davis will hit .258/.337/.449 with 1.6 fWAR, and ZiPS has a very similar projection of .257/.332/.432 with 0.8 fWAR.
If Davis were to only play at an 0.8 win level at the hot corner, the Mets could do some shuffling. Jeff McNeil, Luis Guillorme, and Jonathan Villar are all options to play third base, or perhaps they’d revisit a trade again at the deadline. For now, third base is “Just Dingers” Davis’s to lose, and the Mets can hope that he’ll recapture some of the magic from the 2019 season.