Chris Davis: Texas' Toxic Threebagger

Coming into the season, I was big on three sluggers who I felt flew way under the radar going into draft day: Nelson Cruz, Joey Votto and Chris Davis. All three of these hitters showed enormous power potential in the minors and put together similarly quality (partial) seasons last year:

Joey Votto: 589 AB, .297 AVG, 69 R, 84 RBI, 24 HR, 7 SB

Nelson Cruz: 115 AB, .330 AVG, 19 R, 26 RBI, 7 HR, 3 SB (on pace for a 35 HR, 15 SB, 95 R, 130 RBI season)

Chris Davis: 295 AB, .285 AVG, 51 R, 55 RBI, 17 HR, 1 SB (on pace for a 35 HR, 100 R, 110 RBI season)

Given Dusty Baker's hatred/abuse of young players, Nelson Cruz's AAAA career and Bill James' overwhelming approval of Chris Davis (he called him one of the few guys who would legitimately reach 40 HR this season), Davis seemed like the safest choice of the bunch -- and his 70 ADP on MockDraftCentral, which was the lowest of these three guys, reflected and reaffirmed this belief.

However, now almost 3 months through the season, Chris Davis has not only been the worst player of my three sleepers, but one of the worst players in baseball. There's still a lot to like about Davis (such as the .216 ISO), but the downside (45.5% K rate, 8% higher than the #2 guy, Mark Reynolds) seemingly outweighs the potential.

Currently, Chris Davis supports a .194/.248/.410 slash line, thanks to 45.5% K rate, 5.9% walk rate (bottom 20 among all major league hitters) and 1.4 speed score. The power is legitimate (13 HR in 222 AB, .216 ISO), but Davis' Three-True-Outcome tendencies (Davis K's, HR's or BB's in 58% of his PA's, which is second this season to only Carlos Pena, who follows the TTO formula 60.3% of the time) are quite disconcerting because they skew heavily towards the bad third of the Three True Outcomes -- the strikeouts. Despite posting a .194 BA, Davis's BABIP is an only slightly unlucky .280, thanks to the enormous amount of whiffing he does (Davis is the fastest major league player to ever reach 100 Ks in a season). Any fantasy baseball manager expecting any semblance of a rebound from Davis in the BA department is going to be severely disappointed until that K rate halves.

Furthermore, even if he were to cut down on the strikeouts, Davis' poor pitch recognition (5.9% BB rate, 36.3% O-Swing [24.8% MLB average], 53.6 Swing% [44.9 MLB average] and 47.6% contact [62.4% MLB average]) makes him extremely prone to extended hitting slumps.

All of these markers indicate the following:
1) When Chris Davis makes contact, he drives the ball (his home runs average 413.2 feet in distance, top 5 in baseball)
2) Chris Davis does not make much contact with baseballs and also does not take pitches, which makes him a BA/OBP liability
3) Even if Chris Davis were to hit for a higher average and cut down on the strike outs, his poor pitch recognition and giant hole in his swing make him an extremely streaky, inconsistent hitter that is going to give Rangers fans and fantasy managers peptic ulcers
3) As indicated by his .281 wOBA, a slugger with no ability to get on base has marginal value at best (click here to read about the importance of walking and getting on base over slugging), and thus Chris Davis may lose playing time to minor league 1B slugger Justin Smoak

My love of Chris Davis has waned to the point of disappointment this season and I've dropped him in all of my leagues. I recommend you either do the same if you cannot find a trade partner. This isn't the same situation as Dan Uggla, the Adam Dunn of the middle infield, whose 2B positional eligibility and bad luck make him an undervalued asset. Chris Davis is just a powerful man who is not as good at hitting as perhaps I once pegged him.


Sexy Rexy said...

Can you please show this post to Salty's Baseball! I'm trying to trade him one of my 3B because he has Chris Davis and plenty o' OF depth. God forbid I try to help a guy out by giving him one of my 3B and also help myself in return by getting one of his SEVEN outfielders.

Sexy Rexy said...

Also, Fantasy Focus say he'll probably be in the minors soon.