Just Dingers Davis: Brodie Van Wagenen’s Saving Grace

Just Dingers.

Actually, J.D. stands for Jonathan Davis (making him technically Jonathan Davis Davis), but I like my name better. One of Brodie Van Wagenen’s many roster additions this past offseason, Davis has paid dividends perhaps more than any other Van Wagenen acquisition. He’s played a huge part in the Mets’ recent winning (9-1 in their last 10 games), hitting .354 with 3 home runs since July 1, but has been mostly solid all year long, providing manager Mickey Callaway with an on-base/power blend and an ability to slot in at multiple defensive positions. At 26 years old and with only 137 days of MLB service time accrued, Davis figures to be not only a part of the team’s present, but their future.

Funnily enough when looking back, though, trading for Davis may have been, at the time, the least-liked Brodie Van Wagenen move of the offseason. The Mets parted with 3 prospects – Luis Santana, Ross Adolph, and Scott Manea – in the deal, and though none were “top” prospects, they weren’t insignificant ones, and the reactions to the deal were largely negative:

I understand the Mets desire to add high-probability contributors to their big league roster, even if they’re low-impact players, but moving a prospect like Santana for the kind of role player readily available on the open market feels short-sighted. – Fangraphs

Either the Mets have seen something and are botching the execution, or this is the latest example of them failing to self-scout (particularly in the low minors) leading to an overpay. – Amazin’ Avenue

Shrewd pickup for Houston. – Keith Law (Twitter)

Each of the prospects, though, as if by Brodie’s magic touch, has underperformed thus far in Houston’s system. Their normalized/catch-all offensive statistic wRC+ by season (minimum 50 plate appearances):


Looking at JD Davis’ major league wRC+ makes things look even better for Brodie. Using Fangraphs to chart Davis’ 25-game rolling wRC+ (essentially a moving average of his last 25 games), you can see that his offensive production has been much improved in 2019, and has been pretty consistently trending upward:


Davis raked throughout his career in the minors – in his five seasons in the minor leagues from 2014-2018, he only once had a season OPS below .872 (a still-solid .818 in 2016). His career AAA slash line, in over 100 games, looks like a Hall of Famer’s at .335/.400/.589 (.989 OPS). However, a combination of his thus-far major league incompetence, defensive deficiencies, and age caused the Astros (and many analysts) to give up on him as a real MLB asset.

The Mets, though, have found a way to unlock his power at the major league level this season. He’s been an all-around player, producing a lot of value in limited action as a sometimes-starter for Mickey Callaway. Of all MLB players with 282 or fewer plate appearances this season, he has the 4th-highest wRC:


He’s been able to so consistently produce offensively because of one important skill – he hits the ball hard. Really hard. Per Statcast, his average exit velocity and hard hit percentage are both 93rd percentile in all of MLB, and his peripherals follow the trend:


Davis has shown power to all fields, as evidenced by his well-balanced spray chart:


Look at how he effortlessly takes this outside pitch over the right field porch during a Subway Series double header:

His balanced ability applies in pitch types, too. Of the five pitches he’s seen most often this season, Davis has at least a .286 average against all of them, per Fangraphs:


That’s pretty incredible stuff, and indicates a hitter that’s really difficult to attack, no matter what the pitchers’ toolbox and repertoire are. It lends to optimism that Davis can continue to produce at a high level in the coming months and years – scouts won’t be able to just attack him with one or two pitches over and over again.

With the recent injury to Dominic Smith, Davis has gotten more consistent playing time, and he’s really flourished in his bigger role. If his upward trajectory continues, Mickey Callaway will likely have a forced hand in giving him as many hacks as possible. With early returns from the Robinson Canó/Edwin Díaz trade and Wilson Ramos/Jeurys Familia signings *achem* underwhelming, Davis has been a nice feather in the cap of Brodie Van Wagenen as he looks to, as always, build a team that’s competing both now and in the future.

by Derek Reifer, Northwestern University

This post can also be found on MetsMerizedOnline.com

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