Minor league baseball players focus on improvements every season. Whatever struggles they experienced during previous seasons can easily be re-evaluated by coaches and scouts as they increase their value to their organization every day.
Doing just that during the 2015 season, Dunedin Blue Jays outfielder J.D. Davis totally reinvented himself during his first full season of action.
Struggling to find consistency in his first two professional seasons, Davis didn’t hit higher than .238. Limited action and an unsuccessful attempt at switch-hitting hindered his production quite a bit in the early stages of his professional career.
Realizing this fact right off the bat in 2015, Davis went back to hitting exclusively from the right side and going back to what made him most comfortable paid huge dividends in his brief stint with the Low-A Lansing Lugnuts. Carrying an impressive .408/482/.612 slash line in the Midwest League, Davis registered 20 hits in 49 at-bats, which included two doubles, a triple, and two home runs.
Even though he was in Lansing for a short time, the town left an imprint in the Arkansas native’s mind. Growing up in a small town, Davis really enjoyed the opportunity to experience a totally different atmosphere in Michigan’s capital city.
“Lansing seemed like a pretty nice town,” said Davis. “Everybody I’ve met has been good people and friendly people. The town I’m from is very small, so it’s nice to get out of there and experience a new place. Great teammates and great coaches in Lansing have made it an incredible experience all around.”
With the tremendous gains he made last season the organization knew they needed to put the speedy outfielder on a higher level team.
Finding the challenge he was looking for with the High-A Dunedin Blue Jays, Davis battled a few injuries during the second half of the season. Registering 37 hits in 161 at-bats in the Florida State League wasn’t quite the same amount of success as he enjoyed in Lansing.
While his average dropped a bit in the Florida State League, Davis was still able to produce extra base hits at a high clip. Picking up 15 doubles and a home run while competing for the D-Jays showed incredible promise from the former Central Arkansas standout.
The increase in production was a combination of more playing time and a better approach to hitting in the batter’s box. Improving thanks to the hitting coaches in the Blue Jays minor league system, Davis chose to soak up as much information as possible during Spring Training.
“I think I’ve grown a lot as a batter,” explained Davis. “During Spring Training we work on our plate approach a lot with our hitting coordinator. We did a lot of tracking with our hitting coaches down in Florida. I think my approach is getting a lot better. I try to get better every night and stay consistent. If I do that everything will work out.”
Davis continued to learn how to have better at-bats during the regular season as well. His early advance can be credited to the mentoring he received from Lansing Lugnuts hitting coach Kenny Graham.
“Kenny is a great guy,” said Davis. “I think Kenny is one of the best guys in our organization. He just tells you to go up there and be confident in the work you put in. He says to focus on your daily routine and plate approach and everything else will fall into place.”
Finding success in the outfield as well Davis was a reliable fielder all season. Logging 485.1 innings in all three outfield positions last season Davis committed just five errors and maintained a .962 fielding percentage.
His performance in the outfield is largely due to his ability to get excellent reads off the bat. Combine that with his above-average range and Davis can make difficult line drives look routine on a daily basis.
“I feel that I’m a pretty good outfielder to say the least,” stated Davis. “I try to be ready every pitch. I don’t really think about it too much. I just react to the swing and go get it.”
Always looking to fine-tune his game some more, Davis has built an excellent relationship with Blue Jays Roving Outfield/Base Running Instructor Tim Raines. Seeing many parallels between the ways Rock played the game to the way he competes daily.
“Tim Raines is a great guy and a funny guy as well,” said Davis. “Tim did it better than just about anyone else in the game. I consider him a Hall of Famer. He’s helped me so much with outfield play and hitting. We’re similar guys. We run the same way. We have speed and can hit with a little bit of power. There’s so much you can learn from Tim on a day-to-day basis. It’s great just communicating and being around a guy like that in general.”
Next season will be instrumental for his development. With Davis turning 24 next May it’ll be important for the prospect to keep working hard so he doesn’t become complacent in the minor league ranks.
With the way J.D. Davis approaches every aspect of his game that shouldn’t be an issue at all.