On Sunday, the Mets continued an active weekend of trades designed to add bench-quality pieces to their big league roster, sending several low-level minor leaguers to Houston for power-hitting corner bat J.D. Davis. Here’s the whole deal:
The Mets get:
J.D. Davis, 3B/1B/OF
Cody Bohanek, INF
The Astros get:
Davis is talented — he has plus-plus raw power, a plus-plus arm, and can play several positions, though none especially well — but it’s hard to see how he fits in New York without taking playing time from players who have greater long-term potential and might also be just as good as Davis is right now. He doesn’t complement Todd Frazier or Peter Alonso — the two players projected to start for the Mets at Davis’ primary positions — in any way. Like Frazier and Alonso, Davis hits right-handed and isn’t a good infield defender.
He does have experience in the outfield corners, an area where the Mets need warm bodies, so perhaps we’ll see Davis used as a platoon or situational corner outfielder as a means of getting him at-bats against left-handed pitching. Davis hit .348/.419/.583 against southpaws last year and .344/.401/.800 in 2017, with most of that production coming at Triple-A Fresno. He could get some starts against lefties in situations where the Mets can hide him on defense. They could mix him with Juan Lagares or Keon Broxton depending on if the game state dictates a need for offense or defense, which might move Michael Conforto or Brandon Nimmo to center field once in a while.
This assumes Davis, who turns 26 in April, can hit big league pitching, something he hasn’t done in a fairly limited sample; he owns a .194/.260/.321 line in 181 career big league plate appearances. Houston, an organization at the forefront at understanding how to implement swing changes, doesn’t seem to have been able to alter Davis’ batted ball profile in a way that would enable him to start showing his raw power in games. A power-hitting platoon outcome seems reasonable to hope for, though Davis’ true talent level is probably closer to a defensively-limited bench bat, one that’s easier to roster in the American League and isn’t a great fit on this Mets roster as it’s currently composed.
Cody Bohanek, also acquired by the Mets, is an interesting, late-blooming athletic flier who is probably just an org guy. He played safety and corner at Marist High School in Chicago and had college football aspirations until the University of Illinois-Chicago gave him the opportunity to play baseball. Two-sport, cold weather prospects are apt to improve later than their warm weather peers who play more baseball, and that’s what happened with Bohanek, who had a statistical breakout as a senior and impressed scouts at NCAA Regionals. He was a 30th round senior sign in 2017.
Bohanek split 2018 between Low and Hi-A. He walked a lot and has a proficient, versatile infield glove. He may be a bench infielder at peak and the two-sport, small school, cold weather pedigree makes him slightly mysterious and interesting.
I like Houston’s end of this deal. Tyler White, who lifts the ball consistently and has a track record of hitting for power against big league pitching, made Davis offensively redundant in Houston, as the team didn’t seem interested in exploring a two-way role for Davis, who closed in college. They add three up-the-middle defenders who have performed statistically. The best of them is 19-year-old Dominican second baseman Luis Santana, who is coming off a domestic debut at advanced rookie-level Kingsport where he hit .348/.446/.471 with more walks than strikeouts.
A stocky, curvaceous 5-foot-8, Santana crowds the plate so much that he’s practically straddling it, and his idiosyncratic, low-ball swing enables him to impact pitches that cross the plate beneath his chest as he leans over it. It’s weird, but it works, and Santana looks like he’s going to be a plus hitter who also has a discerning eye for the strike zone, and whose plate crowding gets him hit by pitches so often that it actually matters. Santana has been hit in 4% of his 611 career plate appearances, which is nearly twice the career rate of active big league HBP leader Shin-Soo Choo (132 HBP, 1.9%) who became the active leader when Chase Utley (204 HBP, 2.5%) retired.
Athletically, Santana fits at second and third base. His body is pretty maxed out and he’s not likely to grow into sizable raw power, but he runs well, has infield-worthy hands and an average arm. The combination of his defensive profile and promising feel to hit make him a very intriguing prospect. He was slated to be the 10th ranked Mets prospect on our upcoming list as a 40+ FV player, and I think he’s the best individual talent involved in this deal.
The Astros also received Scott Manea and Ross Adolph. Adolph,22, is an interesting small-school sleeper who hit .322/.445/.654 as a junior at Toledo, then signed for $125,000 as a 2018 12th rounder. He continued to rake at short-season Brooklyn after signing, hitting .276/.348/.509 and swiping 14 bases (on 17 attempts) in 60 games.
He’s an above-average runner with good instincts in center field, and there’s a chance he can stay there. He could be a 50 bat with gap power who is playable in center, which would make him at least a viable big league fourth outfielder. He was going to be a prominent part of the Mets prospect lists’ honorable mention section. We whiffed on him pre-draft, but our sources who saw him in pro ball raved and I’m very interested to see how he hits in full-season ball next year because I think the industry’s error bars on small school bats are pretty large due to the quality of pitching they face.
Manea, 23, was drafted by Seattle out of high school but didn’t sign. He transferred to St. Petersburg College in Florida after his freshman year at NC State, but wasn’t drafted after his sophomore year despite being eligible. He had a good summer for the Wachusett Dirt Dawgs of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League and was eligible to sign as an undrafted free agent, which he did with the Mets in late July of 2016.
He’s a heavy-bodied catcher with power who hit .261/.368/.432 at Low-A Columbia last year. Manea’s a below-average receiver who lets his target sag as his pitcher starts to deliver the ball home, which means he has to come back to that spot with his glove, creating a lot of unnecessary movement that isn’t great for stealing strikes. He’s also a well-below average athlete and thrower, so he probably can’t catch.
The Astros have, in several instances, traded players on the periphery of their big league roster (Teoscar Hernandez, David Paulino, Ramon Laureano, etc.) for prospects, and this is another example. 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.