J.D. Davis is on the move, and it just might launch his career, much like his penchant for launching baseballs into the sky with his prodigious swing.
The one-time Bee Player of the Year from Elk Grove High School was traded from the Houston Astros to the New York Mets on Sunday, allowing the 25-year-old slugger a shot at full-time duty with a major-league squad.
“I’m stoked,” Davis told The Bee on Wednesday morning. “We’ve been happy with the Astros since I got drafted, but I’m ecstatic to have the opportunity to make it as an every-day starter, to do my part to help our team win.”
A third-round draft pick by Houston in 2014, Davis broke into the bigs in 2017, logging 66 games the past two seasons. Though he has shown glimpses of promise, he batted just .194 with five home runs.
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Davis hit .175 with a home run and five RBI last season for Houston in 42 games, but with Triple-A Fresno, he was a monster. Davis won the Pacific Coast League batting title with a .342 average with 17 homers and 81 RBI in 85 games.
“All J.D. needs is a chance to settle in and then he’ll show how great he can be,” Astros catcher Max Stassi, a Yuba City High School product, told The Bee in June. “We can all see how talented he is. He’s a stud.”
Davis said he understands the business of baseball. He was caught up in a talent pool in Houston, with established players in front of him, making routine playing time hard to come by.
“With the Astros, third base was clogged, first base was clogged, there’s a superstar coming in left field, so there was really no room for me. I was a Triple-A guy, a fill-in for the Astros, and I’d get sporadic playing time. It was hard to get into a groove with the Astros.”
Davis said he learned “a lot” from his Houston experiences, be it from players and coaches and his own ups and downs.
“I learned from my game failures, learned from players and I was waiting for a team to come after me, to trade for me, and sure enough, the Mets took that step. It’s time to take off from here.”
Davis has been back home in Elk Grove, visiting his biggest fan – father Greg – and brother Ben, a lineman for the University of Minnesota.
He works out regularly, to the point of exhaustion – conditioning, hitting, fielding. This is nothing new. Davis has worked at his craft since he was a little boy and growing up dreaming of being a ballplayer.
“I firmly believe that if you work hard, things will work out,” Davis said. “Even now, my days are pretty long working out. I’ve always put in the work, but you never get away from the love of the game until your body tells you otherwise (when you get older).
“No matter where I go, what team I play for, I still love diving in the infield, hitting homers, getting clutch hits, making any play to help our team win.”
Davis prides himself in versatility. He has played first and third base, left field and right field, and he has pitched in a pinch.
A power pitcher at Elk Grove and a reliever during a stellar three-year career at Cal State Fullerton, Davis recorded four strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings out of the bullpen last season for Houston. He blew away Khris Davis and Marcus Semien of the A’s in one game, his fastball hitting 94 mph.