In my last article we started with Matt Wieters. We will now continue the Optimism vs. BaltimoREALITY series with first basemen Chris Davis. In these articles, I look at the optimistic and realistic approaches of each Orioles player. Since the team finally experienced success last season, I want to do my part to make sure that expectations don’t get too high. I do think that the Orioles will still battle for the division and wild card spots, but I don’t think every player will be a slam dunk.
In 2008 Chris Davis came up from the minors with Texas and hit .285 with 17 home runs. That was a projection of 34 home runs over the course of a season. He was only 22 at the time.
With power being the last tool to fully develop, Davis was immediately marked as a 40 homer guy. In 2009 he was expected to hit 40 and was even being drafted in the 4th round of most fantasy baseball leagues.
He hit a solid 21 home runs despite only playing in 113 games. From there, the Texas Rangers became the most dominant team in the American League and didn’t have the time to let a young player develop. Davis was then dealt to the Orioles for Koji Uehara, bullpen depth that the Rangers needed to help win the American League pennant.
The expectations for Davis in Baltimore didn’t seem to be as high as they were in Texas. Perhaps nobody remembered the 40 homer hype that surrounded him just 3 years ago. In 31 games with the Orioles in 2011, Davis hit only .276 with 2 hom runs.
Finally last season, he broke out with 33 bombs. Coincidentally it was the first chance he ever got in the majors to be an everyday starter. Now that the fans know exactly who Chris Davis is, the optimism has again risen. I’m once again seeing projections of 40 home runs. In his 27 year old season, people say Davis will continue to develop, while becoming a league leader in long balls.
People are correct. Chris Davis has always had, and still has, 40 homer power. In order for him to get there he needs to finally play 150 games. Davis hasn’t had the most healthy playing career, but he hasn’t really been injury prone either. So I expect him to finally reach the 150 mark.
In looking at his 2012 splits, Davis hit 19 homers in the second half. I suspect that his experience and playing time last season helped him figure out how to be a better hitter. Improved statistics throughout the season are a good indicator of that type of development, which leads me to believe that his second half numbers were legit. Spreading his second half numbers out over the course of a full season gives him 38 home runs. That’s an improvement from last year.
Was last year a fluke? No chance. The power splits over the course of his entire career have been consistent. What was the difference last season? Playing time.
What will it take for him to get to the next level? More games played. 150 should get him to the 38-40 HR area. His power is his best attribute. His batting average is sub-par, and will continue to be so because he isn’t really better than a .270 hitter. More games played could actually lower his average slightly and will probably also raise his strikeouts — which are already too high. But strikeouts don’t really bother me. They are a preferable out in most situations. Much better than grounding into a double play in my book.
So will Davis get the playing time? I don’t see why he won’t. His ability to start at first base, third base, in the outfield, and a DH make him very versatile. With the return of Nate McLouth and Nolan Reimold, and the departure of Mark Reynolds, it is likely that Davis will see the majority of his time at first this season. He was a pretty good defensive first baseman last season, as opposed to being a sub-par defensive outfielder. And of course we all know how good of a pitcher he is.
I’m expecting an even better season out of Chris Davis. He has that 40 home run power, he’s versatile, he will be an everyday player, and he will continue to improve at age 27. The middle of the order core of Wieters, Jones, and Davis is pretty strong and offers a lot of pop. For the first time in his career, Chris Davis is finally underrated. Perhaps that’s where he needs to be to succeed. Less pressure is always a good thing.
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HUGE Chris Davis fan. I think he is a legitimate AL East firstbaseman and will prove it this year. Thanks again, Andy McPhail!
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