While the Orioles insist that Chris Davis has been a solid defender at first base in the past and will be again, some O’s fans have expressed concerns about a defensive dropoff at the spot if Davis turns out to be the full-time replacement for Mark Reynolds.
Reynolds was certainly not smooth around the bag as last season wore on, but he made a lot of key plays there as the club’s defense played a huge role in the winning last season.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter has said he feels very confident that Davis will play solid defense at first this year. Davis was inconsistent at times when he started there often last April and May.
Two men that have spent plenty of time working with infielders in the organization on their defense in recent years agree with Showalter about Davis and his potential to be good at first. Both Mike Bordick and Bobby Dickerson feel Davis can get the job done.
Bordick, who instructs O’s infielders in the majors and minors in addition to his duties as a MASN broadcaster, said Davis just needs to put in the time and work during spring training.
“I think Bobby Dickerson is going to work (Davis’) butt off in spring training,” Bordick said. “I think Chris has a great mindset right now, almost like a chip on his shoulder. Coming over to the Orioles, he felt he was a pretty good defender and all the reports were that he is a good athlete and he is a great athlete. Just (needs) a little more focus over there.
“This is his opportunity to be an everyday first baseman and I think he will be fired up and work very hard at it this spring. We’re not necessarily looking for a Gold Glover, just someone consistent, making for a consistent and solid infield.”
Bordick said he feels Davis has the proper skill set to be good around the bag.
“I do. I think we all saw his athletic ability last year when he was moving around (in the field at different positions). He’s a big guy, so he’s a nice, big target over there. I think with a little focus and a good foundation of fundamentals over there, I think he can really flourish,” he said.
Dickerson has worked with O’s top minor leaguers over the last few years as the club’s infield instructor and now will coach third base and work with the O’s infielders this season at the big league level. He is a believer in Davis.
“He’s an athletic guy and can do a lot of things,” Dickerson said. “The biggest thing is what he told me himself, that he’s going to get after it and get himself back. Last spring, he said maybe he was looking at all the possible positions he could play. But this spring, he’ll come and we’re going to do a lot of early work and everything to make sure that he’s prepared to take that position.
“He has all the skills. One of the biggest things the greatest first basemen do is save throwing errors. That will be one of our focuses. We’re going to try to increase range around the bag to limit bad throws. Sometimes a throw is two feet up the line and the infielder gets the error and sometimes it’s due to the first baseman not having range. That is one of my areas I really want to stay with him in spring training and make sure that we have real good range around the base taking throws.”
For what it’s worth, Reynolds has a career .990 fielding percentage and 8.98 range factor per nine innings according to baseball-reference.com and Davis is at .995 with a range factor of 9.40 in 230 career starts. League average is 9.22.