J.D. Davis' struggles at third base for the Mets in 2019 were so bad that he was basically rendered unplayable at the position.
He was worth -9 DRS at third base (per FanGraphs) in just 220 innings. And when you extrapolate that over a full season, it's easy to see why Davis was used mostly in left field, where he was below average but playable.
But Davis said on Dec. 4 when talking about where he would play in 2020 that he preferred third base to left field, explaining that he felt more natural there.
"I do feel a little more comfortable at third base just because that was where I was drafted. ... just being drafted as a third baseman and playing most of my games at third, I prefer that," Davis said. "If it's left field, so be it. Wherever the team needs me. I know we've got a lot of talent on this team. So wherever the team needs me, I'll play."
He also explained that going back and forth from left field to third base was not easy.
While the expectation remains that Davis will play left field most of the time in 2020 (both in Grapefruit League games and during the regular season), he will take 50 percent of his practice reps at third base at spring training while prepping for the season, Mike Puma of the New York Post reported late Tuesday.
According to Puma, Mets infield coach Gary DiSarcina traveled to California this offseason to work with Davis at third base, having him stand more upright instead of crouching.
"Every coach had told me to try to stay low to the ground, so we basically flipped it to more of a tennis player being on the receiving end," Davis told Puma. "I'm a little more upright, and it's helped me kind of do a small jump before the ball comes to home plate and that way my feet are more set on the ground, and that has helped me out with my reaction time of reading baseballs and reading tough hops, and it's been working out perfect for me at least for that situation."
DiSarcina has also worked with Davis on his throws to first base.
"Sixty percent for him is good enough," DiSarcina told Puma about the velocity of Davis' throws. "It's going to keep his arm in a better slot, his feet moving, he's going to follow his throw and be headed toward his target. Instead of fielding balls, running with it and throwing as hard as you can and losing accuracy. We are trying to clean him up and he's done a lot of work on his own."
If Davis is able to transform himself into someone who can adequately handle third base, it will be a great turn of events for the Mets and give them more immediate options as well as better options if another infielder gets injured.
For example, on days where Jeff McNeil is off, Davis can play third base and (maybe) Yoenis Cespedes can play left field.
If an infielder like Robinson Cano goes down with an injury, McNeil can slide over to second base and Davis can play third, with Cespedes in left field or the Mets going for defense in center field with Jake Marisnick and sliding Brandon Nimmo over to left.
"It was a little bit difficult coming from left field to third base just because of 150 feet difference," Davis said in December about having so few reps at third base in 2019. "The ball gets on you a little bit quicker. But if I play third base, just like anything, more reps over there I'll be just fine. Just like anything. I'm comfortable, I'm confident over there and I'm excited."