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J.D. Davis Should Be The Mets' DH
Assuming the Designated Hitter comes to the National League, Davis is perfectly suited for the role, and there's no one else on the roster to do it.
Hello! Welcome back; it’s been a slow winter for baseball news (because, you know), but as the new year begins, Shea Bridge Report will ramp up once again. Assuming Opening Day is just over the horizon, be prepared for reporting and opinion on the 2022 Mets, the wide world of baseball, and anything else that might come up. We begin right now: assuming the DH comes to the National League in 2022, who should the Mets use to fill the role? My answer isn’t complicated, and you can probably tell by the title. Enjoy!
Writing a column pretty much always happens the same way. You come up with a simple argument, think of a few pieces of evidence, put them all together in a way that makes sense and flows smoothly, and write it all down. The key word in that process is “simple.” If you want to make a complicated argument, a column is the wrong place to do it. You have 800 words and an audience who wants to read for a minute or two and then go do something else. If you’re going to analyze the relative culpability for the deterioration of living standards in 17th-century Prussia, you’ve probably chosen the wrong form.
The problem with that, of course, is that most arguments are complicated. The world is a complicated place. Who would have thought, on December 31st, 2020, that the year 2021 would involve an ethical debate about the ramifications of lying to journalists about a fight between two teammates, describing it as an argument over whether something was a rat or a raccoon? So the key to a good column is distilling a subject down into one defensible, simple assertion, and then defending it. About Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil, for instance, you can say “it’s unethical to lie to reporters.” About Citi Field, you can say “The Arancini Bros stand in the upper deck is the best concession stand in the stadium when wait time and proximity to valuable seats are factored in.” And about the Mets roster right now, you can say “J.D. Davis should be the Mets’ DH in 2022.”
What? Yes. The Mets need a DH — or they almost certainly will, whenever this godforsaken lockout is resolved and the DH, as seems likely, comes to the National League — and Davis is the man for the job.
There hasn’t been much talk about who the Mets will pencil in at DH once the season starts, likely because even the start of the season feels remote right now. Labor talks are moving at roughly the speed of Wilson Ramos trying to go from first to third on a single. But Baseball Gods willing, there will be a season, and one day next year, Buck Showalter will have an actual lineup card to fill out for a real baseball game. The card will probably have a DH slot on it. Davis hasn’t gotten much attention this offseason, but his name should fill that empty line.
The reasons are really quite simple. J.D. Davis is an excellent hitter, and while he’s improved ever so slightly, he’s a below-average defender. He doesn’t have a defensive position, but if he can prove that the offensive potential he’s demonstrated so far is sustainable, the Mets would be foolish to keep his bat out of the lineup.
Over three seasons with the Mets, one full and two partial, Davis has batted .288/.373/.472. The one year he played a full season — 2019 — he was even better, batting .307/.369/.527 with 22 home runs, good for an .895 OPS. His power numbers were probably inflated by whatever strange things MLB was doing to the baseball that season, but juiced ball or not, 137 OPS+’s don’t grow on trees.
In the two years since 2019, Davis has still been pretty good. He’s batted .266/.377/.412. But he may well be even better. Since 2019, he still hasn’t gotten a chance to play every day through an ordinary season and prove that he can continue hitting like he did that year. In 2020, Davis slumped through the pandemic-shortened season, and in 2021, as Justin Toscano of The Record and NorthJersey reported, he played through a hand injury for most of the season, twice landing on the injured list and never getting consistent playing time. Davis had surgery in the offseason to repair the injury, and expects to be healthy well before the anticipated start of Spring Training.
So, in 2022, the Mets should get him those at-bats. Pencil Davis in at DH, and find him consistent playing time on offense while no longer needing to hide his glove somewhere on the field.
It’s simple, because here’s the thing: who else is going to do it? Not Pete Alonso: if he’s the DH, Dominic Smith will play first, and between Davis and Smith, so far Davis is the more proven hitter. Not Jeff McNeil: if he’s not traded, he’ll be the Mets best option to play second base. J.D. Davis should be the Mets starting DH on Opening Day 2022, whenever that may be. His bat is too good to keep out of the lineup, and his biggest liability, his glove and lack of a position, will be nullified in the new role. It’s almost a no-brainer.
The key to writing columns is to find simple, evidence-based statements to defend. “J.D. Davis should be the Mets’ DH” is so simple, it practically writes itself.