Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Catching up with Astros/Hooks 3B J.D. Davis

I first talked to 3B J.D. Davis two years ago in Lancaster and was impressed with what I saw from him then. I continue to be impressed by his consistency with the bat and his defensive improvement. One particular change that I've noticed with J.D. is in his quiet disposition. He's still on the quiet side, but he's more vocal on the field and he likes talking a little smack during BP as well, projecting an attitude of quiet confidence that makes him a very appealing player to watch.

J.D. Davis - April 2017
Photo by Jayne Hansen

When I caught up with J.D. in the Hooks dugout in late April, I asked him what was going well for him so far this season. He responded, "I think just sticking to what I learned after the first month of April last year. Me and (then Hooks Hitting Coach Dan) Radisson or Rad Dog … something clicked with him. Just trying to stay short and delivering my back side or my back hip to the ball more. And that's actually really helped me stay short and reduce the strike outs and reduce the swing and misses. Just put the ball in play. It doesn't have to (be driven). Just put the ball in play so you have a chance of getting a base hit or getting on base. I think that's really worked out with me. And also having that same approach or that same concept of hitting, of being ready to hit, it's helped me lay off some pitches that are closer on the border line of the strike zone so that's actually helped me a lot. Being more patient as a hitter and being ready to get my pitch in the zone. I've been working on that all off season. And then going in to Spring Training and having a really good Spring, I'm really confident in what I've done and really happy with what I've done. Just try to stay consistent with what I'm doing over here."

When I asked J.D. if it was my imagination that his defense had gotten markedly better since he first started, his initial response was somewhere between a chortle and a guffaw. "Yeah, it's gotten a lot better," said Davis. "I remember the first time in Tri-City, I had 11 errors in 20 games. [It was actually 27 games if that makes you feel any better, J.D.] That was not a good start at all at third base. I've gotten a lot better. I've taken pride in it. Coming here, coming with the Astros organization, the first priority was to soften up my hands. I couldn't knock out every single priority in getting better on defense all in one year. So I just took one step at a time, softening my hands up, working with Adam Everett, Ramon Vasquez, (Morgan) Ensberg and even Rodney (Linares), working with all those guys softening up my hands. And the next step was getting my feet better. I think I made great strides last year in getting it. And then this last off season, I've always gone to a trainer, but I went to a speed guy. That really helped me with my feet and my agility. And I've actually lost 10 to 15 pounds because at the end of last year, I was 238. Right now, I'm 228, 227. I've lost quite a bit of weight and obviously, I've put on quite a bit of muscle. It's helped me be a little bit lighter on my feet, a little quicker over there, especially when it's the hot corner. All in all, I think just taking one year at a time and getting better at one aspect of defense in my game so I think that's actually helped me a lot. Instead of trying to be impatient and expect everything to work right away, to be more patient and work on things and that's actually helped out a lot."

The Astros are planning to give Davis a little time in the outfield this season to add to his versatility. When asked about that, Davis said, "Yeah, I enjoy it. I played right field in college. They put me out in left field which is a different atmosphere out there. You know you get different balls. [With] righthanders, you'll get the top spinners and [with] lefties, you'll get the slicers. In right field, you mostly get truer balls. It's a little easier out in right. Left field is a little bit more difficult but whatever it takes me to get to the big leagues, I'm OK with doing whatever the team needs. I know (Alex) Bregman, you can't really beat that guy. His defense and his bat are pretty incredible. It is what it is, so if I can help the Astros or get to the next level, by just being a plug in at left field or even at first base, I'll do it. I'm pretty comfortable out there. I've only played like two games out there so I can't really speak too much about it, but I'm not opposed to it."

What would Davis tell the 2014 version of himself, the one who was drafted in the third round out of Cal State Fullerton? "Obviously, I would tell him what I've learned this last year, year and a half of hitting, and obviously of defense, and the mindset of professional baseball … to take one game at a time, not too much pressure on every single game. College-wise it's a different atmosphere. There's 52 games as opposed to 140 games. Every game is a must win in college to get up in the rankings. Professionally, obviously, you want to win every game, but you know you're going to see some plays, you're going to see some games that you've never done before, like the other night when we threw the ball around, I think we had 4 or 5 errors … we've never been a part of that. So it is what it is. It happens. But I would say to my younger self, Be patient, continue to work hard. Never be content. Always keep working hard. Keep your head down. Keep smiling and keep enjoying the game," said Davis.

Calm, quiet, confident and always striving to be the best player that he can be. What's not to like?

Thank you for your time, J.D., and best of luck as the season continues.

Other Recent Interviews:
RHP Akeem Bostick
LHP Mike Freeman

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