He’s been a terrific fielder at shortstop, undoubtedly one of the best in baseball. Even when he isn’t hitting, he’s still saving runs and essentially whole games with his slick glove. Mets fans got a reality check of how truly valuable he’s been in the first two innings of Monday’s game in Cincinnati.
He’s also been immeasurably valuable as a leader. It’s been documented all season how much of an impact he’s had on the clubhouse, and his absence has already also had an impact. When Edwin Diaz blew the save in Pittsburgh on Saturday, Luis Rojas said Diaz missed Lindor out there in the field to support him.
Needless to say, of all the injuries the Mets have had this season, Lindor’s is one of the biggest. If not for Jacob deGrom, it probably would be THE biggest.
With that said, Lindor’s injury does present an opportunity for J.D. Davis.
The door is open to an everyday role with the Mets, and now it’s his opportunity to burst through it for good.
After a really great season at the plate in 2019, Davis got the reigns to the hot corner almost full time in 2020. He was fine, but there was certainly a bit of regression with the bat. However, so many people had offensive regressions in 2020, and his 111 OPS+ was still above average by a decent bit, so it should be taken with a grain of salt.
He started the 2021 season as the primary third baseman, but he had a first-half plagued by injuries, playing only 17 games before the All-Star break.
In those 17 games though he was phenomenal at the dish, hitting .390/.479/.610 over 48 plate appearances.
Still, someone needed to play third base in his absence, and that person was mainly Jonathan Villar, who filled in admirably. He didn’t do anything crazy, but he hit enough to get the job done and fielded the position well enough to earn himself playing time, even when Davis is healthy.
The same goes for Luis Guillorme, who also spent some time at third base when he came back from his own early-season injury. He doesn’t hit for practically any power, but he slaps a good amount of singles and has a great eye, resulting in him getting on base at a rate Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill would be proud of. Like Villar, Guillorme has earned playing time.
That meant when Davis came back, third base was all of a sudden very, very crowded.
Then, in the second game following the All-Star break Lindor went down, and all of a sudden the Mets needed someone to man shortstop for nine innings every night. Davis can’t play shortstop — he can barely play third base to be quite honest — but Villar and Guillorme can.
So, while Villar and Guillorme split the newly available playing time at short, Davis has third base pretty much all to himself.
This is his chance to prove he has a future in the Mets organization.
Davis can hit, we all know that. His issue is whether or not he can play a serviceable enough third base to stay in the lineup.
That’s the thing though, his bat is so good, he doesn’t even have to be an above-average fielder to earn an everyday role. He just has to not routinely cost the Mets, but at times, even doing just that hasn’t been a given.
There’s a lot riding on these next couple of weeks for Davis. He needs to hit at the level he’s shown he’s capable of doing, and he needs to field at a level passable enough that the Mets can be comfortable sending him out to third base every day.
Not only that, but there’s perhaps even more riding on the next handful of games for Davis. With the trade deadline inching closer and closer every day, the Mets are looking like they want to make a serious acquisition.
One of the most popular names in the mix? Kris Bryant.
The 2016 NL MVP is having a very good season at the plate, and for a team that hasn’t been hitting consistently like the Mets, he would be a nice infusion into the lineup.
He’s also incredibly versatile defensively. Amazingly, Bryant has started at least 10 games at five different positions this season. Third base is one of them, and it’s the position he’s had the most starts and spent the second-most innings. It’s also his natural position, coming up as a third baseman and having the most innings there over his career by far.
If the Mets were to acquire Bryant, third base is likely where he’d see the bulk of the playing time. He could spend some time in the outfield, seeing as he has at least 10 starts at all three spots, but that would mean shifting Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto or Dominic Smith to a part-time role.
Nimmo has been perhaps the Mets’ most productive hitter in the time he’s been healthy so he’s a lock to stay in the lineup. Smith and Conforto are the ones who would likely be on the chopping block because they’ve both had down seasons, but benching either of them is probably a move the Mets aren’t too keen to make. Both of them have also been heating up recently, and if they can fully regain their swings, then they CAN’T come out of the lineup.
The fifth position Bryant plays is first base, and that spot is firmly occupied by Pete Alonso. That leaves Davis at third base as the odd man out if Bryant comes to Queens.
If Davis isn’t shipped back to Chicago in the deal, which is entirely possible, it will be really hard for him to find consistent playing time. That’s why this next stretch of games is so important for him. He needs to show the Mets front office that he’s the man for the job at third base for the rest of the season and beyond.
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Otherwise, Jonathan Gregory Davis may be on an Opening Day roster for a different ball club in 2022.