Mets manager Luis Rojas likes what he’s seeing from JD Davis, whose defense at third base was one of the major questions surrounding the club this offseason.
“He’s done a really good job,” Rojas said Tuesday. “He came to camp really good but I think he’s gotten even better. I think [Francisco] Lindor has played a big role in that along with our coach, Gary DiSarcina who’s in charge of the infielders.”
The 27-year-old has shown the offensive promise to make him a part of the soon-to-be-contenders’ future plans. But his glove provided reasons for pause, including from team president Sandy Alderson during the winter.
“If you’re talking about defensively, our third base situation is probably a little up in the air,” Alderson said back in December.
In 110 career MLB games at third, Davis has a defensive runs saved (DRS) mark of -19, prompting the Mets to explore other areas where he could fit in the field, most notably left field; though he didn’t instill much confidence there.
The emergence of Dominic Smith — a natural first baseman moved to the outfield because of Pete Alonso — meant the only place to fit Davis is at the hot corner.
In Rojas’ eyes, his improvements compared to years past have been noticeable.
“It’s his clock, it’s something that’s gotten better,” Rojas said. “Sometimes he rushes, sometimes he takes an extra second… but we’re pleased with the way he’s playing.
He’s pretty solid. More than anything is how he’s changed his offseason program or in-season program. You can see his shape how it’s changed and I can personally expand on it because I had him in the outfield and the way he was moving then compared to now is different.”
Coming into spring training with the certainty of playing third has allowed Davis to focus solely on that position, which has helped his confidence.
“[It provides] the comfort of failing,” he said back in February. “That’s such a weird thing but when you get 50 reps at left field, 50 reps at third, and you misplay a ball and you have to wait two days… it’s different. Just to stick with one position and stick with that comfort of failing, you’re able to grow.”
Out of 60 games last season, Davis played 34 at third base, posting a meager .958 fielding percentage and a -8 DRS in 269.1 innings of work while being used as a designated hitter 13 times and a left fielder on eight occasions.
“I think he can only keep getting better,” Rojas said. “There are more things that will come to his own repertoire to be more versatile out there. Working at third base, expanding to be really good will help him potentially be better in the second-base area with the shifts we have nowadays.
“He’s going to be more acclimated to cover more ground, more range, and make different plays. I think he’s in a really good spot right now… He’s really smart. He knows what he needs to keep developing.”