Khris Davis Reveals His Secret

Back in March, Khris Davis described his power as his secret weapon. “Me being kind of small, no one looks at me and is like, ‘He’s got power,’” Davis told Brewers.com beat writer Adam McCalvy. “I do, but it’s kind of a secret.” Now that he has mashed eight homers in his first 93 big league plate appearances, it’s safe to say that his secret is out. He’s even stole the spotlight from the other Chris Davis, which is tough since the Orioles’ Davis is still humming right along. The question is, how much longer will the Brewers’ Davis get to keep sharing his secret weapon?

These days, it’s hard to sneak onto the major league radar, and maybe Brewers fans were well aware of Davis. After all, he entered this season hitting .294/.400/.513 across four minor league seasons, the last of which concluded with a very similar line in 140 plate appearances in Triple-A. Still, Davis has always had a poor defensive reputation, and that kept him from sniffing any prospect lists heading into this season. None of the major prospect outlets — Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, Bullpen Banter, ESPN or here at FanGraphs even mentioned Davis in their top 10/15 prospect lists this spring. Along with the bad defense, he may have appeared a touch old for his leagues, and he also seemingly had no opportunity in a Brewers outfield with three set starters in Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez and Norichika Aoki.

Davis actually made the opening day roster, but he only started two games in the first month and was optioned to the minors on May 2 in favor of utilityman Jeff Bianchi. He would come back up for a few days in July when Braun went on the bereavement list, and then for good when Braun landed on the restricted list. Still, even when he came back up for good on the 22nd, he wasn’t playing regularly. Milwaukee’s first choice for replacing Braun was Caleb Gindl, who also actually hit pretty well himself in his cup of coffee. But for some reason, when Aramis Ramirez was ready to come back, it was Gindl who was sent packing and not Davis. Perhaps Milwaukee wanted Davis’ right-handed bat on the bench, but from Braun’s last game to Aug. 13 (Gindl’s last game before being sent down) the breakdown of left-field starts was Gindl 16, Davis four and Logan Schafer three. The move seemed innocent enough, and Gindl was in fact recalled on Friday. But in that space of time — Aug. 13-23 — Davis may have just locked himself into a roster spot for good.

In that nine-game, 11-day span, Davis hit .467/.543/1.033. He swatted five homers in 30 at-bats, including two on the day Gindl returned, Friday, Aug. 23. One was off of Homer Bailey, and the two homers were the two biggest plays of the game for Milwaukee against a surging Cincy squad. His effort that night was one of just 109 hitter games this season with a WPA of >.500. It also was just the 370th time since 1916 that a player tallied a multi-homer game during one of the first 40 games of his career. Now, Davis is seemingly a fixture in the lineup. It’s the perfect result of what happens when opportunity meets talent.

Of course, it’s not likely that Davis will keep up such a robust performance for the remainder of the season, but he definitely has a mean power stroke. Since 2010, his 69 homers are tied for 70th among all minor leaguers (among a sample of more than 15,000), and that’s after time missed both this year (big league club) and last (injury). And whether or not he keeps up this pace in the majors, he’s already put himself in some select company. At 93 PA with 32 games to go, it’s unlikely that Davis will get to 250 PA for the season, so I ran a query for rookies who hit eight or more homers in 250 or fewer PA. The search yielded 124 players, though the four of them from this year — Wil Myers (236 PA), Derek Dietrich (233), Matt Adams (215) and Darin Ruf (172) — are all either good bets or locks to cross that 250 PA threshold, so we’ll call it 120 players. If Davis pops two more dingers, he’ll be one of just 49 on the list to do so. Looking at the results individually, we see a who’s-who of all-bat, no field mashers. Here’s the top five:

Player HR PA Year Age WAR   HR PA WAR
Russell Branyan 16 220 2000 24 0.8   194 3,398 10.8
Jay Gibbons 15 246 2001 24 0.7   127 3,177 3.9
Chris Richard 14 239 2000 26 0.4   34 1,005 1.4
Rafael Palmeiro 14 244 1987 22 0.4   569 12,046 70.0
Sam Horn 14 177 1987 23 1.1   62 1,185 2.9

(Numbers on the left are for rookie season, numbers on the right career totals)

OK, so Palmeiro had defensive value in his day, but he still spent plenty of time at designated hitter. Also notable on this is Craig Wilson, Willie McCovey, Leon Wagner, Allen Craig, Mike Jacobs, Erubial Durazo, Richie Sexson, Phil Plantier, Tyler Moore, Kyle Blanks, Miguel Montero, Luke Scott, David Ross, Shane Spencer, Matt Stairs, and of course, Rob Deer (see the whole list at the bottom). You get the idea — these guys are whose bat carried them into battle. The 120 players averaged 24.98 years of age during their rookie season, so in his age-25 season Davis fits in swimmingly. The first five guys are sort of a microcosm of the whole list — the players here went on to get enough at-bats to say they had a legit shot at having a career. Most of them faded quickly and were done being a productive player (or a player at all) by their early 30’s. Some will hang on and have a pretty decent career, and a couple will have extraordinary careers. Given the fact that it took a few years more than Palmeiro or McCovey to reach the majors, I’ll go ahead and knock out the latter path right now.

The question of whether or not Davis ends up being a flash in the pan or continues to have success will likely have a lot to do with defense. With Braun and Gomez coming back in ’14 and beyond, and with Aoki having a ridiculously low $1.5 million club option, the Crew’s outfield is set for at least one more season. Davis will some action as a fourth outfielder, but Braun and Gomez both hit right-handed like he does, and for his career Aoki doesn’t really have a platoon split (101 wRC+ against lefties, 108 wRC+ against righties) so he’s not a candidate to be platooned. Juan Francisco on the other hand, is a perfect candidate to be platooned. For his career, he has a 115 wRC+ against righties but a miniscule 17 wRC+ against lefties. Since 2009, there have been 567 players to compile at least 100 PA against lefties, and only six players have a worse wRC+ than does Francisco against them. And while Francisco’s 101 PA vs. LHP is a small sample, at a certain point he’s not getting more opportunities against them for a good reason.

The problem is that Davis may not be equipped to handle either right field or first base. In that aforementioned interview, Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke labeled Davis “a left fielder, period.” Perhaps Milwaukee will revisit that stance and send him to winter ball for more seasoning after the season, but if Davis can’t even appear acceptable at other positions, this two-week stretch might end up being the highlight of his career.

It’s passé to say that every organization has a “four corners” player in the minors who are capable of coming up and mashing. It may be true, but the opportunity rarely comes from those so-called AAAA players. The opportunity has come for Davis, and he has taken full advantage. Davis’ power is no longer a secret, but whether or not he is able to consistently display it past 2013 may come down to his defense.

Full list:

Rk Player HR PA Year Age
1 Russell Branyan 16 220 2000 24
2 Jay Gibbons 15 246 2001 24
3 Chris Richard 14 239 2000 26
4 Rafael Palmeiro 14 244 1987 22
5 Sam Horn 14 177 1987 23
6 Bill Schroeder 14 226 1984 25
7 Craig Wilson 13 183 2001 24
8 Chito Martinez 13 228 1991 25
9 Hector Villanueva 13 214 1991 26
10 Jim Traber 13 240 1986 24
11 Willie McCovey (RoY-1st) 13 219 1959 21
12 Leon Wagner 13 241 1958 24
13 Brad Eldred 12 208 2005 24
14 Joe Crede 12 209 2002 24
15 Bubba Trammell 12 216 1998 26
16 Mike Diaz 12 233 1986 26
17 Roger Repoz 12 245 1965 24
18 Bobby Hofman 12 182 1953 27
19 Allen Craig 11 219 2011 26
20 Casper Wells 11 241 2011 26
21 Jake Fox 11 241 2009 26
22 Mike Jacobs 11 112 2005 24
23 Adam Hyzdu 11 179 2002 30
24 Andy Tracy 11 218 2000 26
25 Erubiel Durazo 11 185 1999 25
26 Angel Echevarria 11 211 1999 28
27 Richie Sexson 11 183 1998 23
28 Phil Plantier (RoY-8th) 11 175 1991 22
29 Mitch Webster 11 235 1985 26
30 Hal King 11 239 1970 26
31 George Alusik 11 230 1962 27
32 Wayne Belardi 11 180 1953 22
33 Tyler Moore 10 171 2012 25
34 Randy Ruiz 10 130 2009 31
35 Kyle Blanks 10 172 2009 22
36 Miguel Montero 10 244 2007 23
37 Elijah Dukes 10 220 2007 23
38 Luke Scott 10 249 2006 28
39 Marcus Thames 10 184 2004 27
40 David Ross 10 140 2003 26
41 Damon Minor 10 201 2002 28
42 Brian Buchanan 10 219 2001 27
43 Wes Helms 10 239 2001 25
44 Shane Spencer 10 73 1998 26
45 Matt Stairs 10 158 1996 28
46 Eric Davis 10 200 1984 22
47 Cliff Johnson 10 210 1974 26
48 Dusty Rhodes 10 201 1952 25
49 Erik Kratz 9 157 2012 32
50 Brett Lawrie 9 171 2011 21
51 Brandon Belt 9 209 2011 23
52 Mitch Moreland 9 173 2010 24
53 Carlos Quentin 9 191 2006 23
54 Edwin Encarnacion 9 234 2005 22
55 Jason Dubois 9 202 2005 26
56 Joe Borchard 9 222 2004 25
57 Bucky Jacobsen 9 176 2004 28
58 Alex Ramirez 9 240 2000 25
59 Raul Ibanez 9 227 1999 27
60 Freddy Garcia 9 193 1998 25
61 Bobby Hughes 9 237 1998 27
62 Todd Greene 9 131 1997 26
63 Carlos Delgado 9 159 1994 22
64 Rich Rowland 9 129 1994 30
65 Kevin Roberson 9 195 1993 25
66 Bob Geren 9 225 1989 27
67 Dan Pasqua 9 166 1985 23
68 John Russell 9 234 1985 24
69 Kirk Gibson 9 189 1980 23
70 Pat Bourque 9 217 1973 26
71 Rene Lachemann 9 235 1965 20
72 Dave Nicholson 9 202 1962 22
73 Joe Pignatano 9 163 1958 28
74 Dick Gray 9 221 1958 26
75 Ray Katt 9 227 1954 27
76 Ed Bailey 9 223 1954 23
77 Johnny Schulte 9 209 1927 30
78 Khris Davis 8 93 2013 25
79 Yasmani Grandal 8 226 2012 23
80 Jordany Valdespin 8 206 2012 24
81 Paul Goldschmidt 8 177 2011 23
82 Chris Heisey 8 226 2010 25
83 Kila Ka’aihue 8 206 2010 26
84 Drew Stubbs 8 196 2009 24
85 Joe Mather 8 147 2008 25
86 Jason Kubel 8 235 2006 24
87 Curtis Granderson 8 174 2005 24
88 Dallas McPherson 8 220 2005 24
89 Hee-Seop Choi 8 245 2003 24
90 Robby Hammock 8 216 2003 26
91 Laynce Nix 8 195 2003 22
92 Shawn Wooten 8 232 2001 28
93 Shane Spencer 8 226 1999 27
94 Geoff Blum 8 154 1999 26
95 Edgard Clemente 8 171 1999 23
96 Daryle Ward 8 161 1999 24
97 Bobby Estalella 8 182 1998 23
98 Yamil Benitez 8 204 1997 24
99 Fernando Tatis 8 241 1997 22
100 Tony Graffanino 8 221 1997 25
101 Ozzie Timmons 8 185 1995 24
102 Shane Andrews 8 241 1995 23
103 Ron Jones 8 129 1988 24
104 Jim Lindeman 8 227 1987 25
105 Darren Daulton 8 181 1986 24
106 Ivan Calderon 8 233 1985 23
107 Rob Deer 8 187 1985 24
108 Franklin Stubbs 8 245 1984 23
109 Joe Lefebvre 8 178 1980 24
110 Jack Pierce 8 194 1975 26
111 Craig Kusick 8 238 1974 25
112 Hal McRae 8 182 1970 24
113 Fred Whitfield 8 167 1962 24
114 Norm Sherry 8 154 1960 28
115 Earl Battey 8 198 1958 23
116 Jackie Jensen 8 188 1951 24
117 Joe Collins 8 238 1950 27
118 Aaron Robinson 8 183 1945 30
119 Tommy Henrich 8 241 1937 24
120 Pinky Hargrave 8 250 1925 29



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Paul Swydan is the co-managing editor of The Hardball Times, a writer and editor for FanGraphs and a writer for ESPN Insider. Follow him on Twitter @Swydan.

24 Responses to “Khris Davis Reveals His Secret”

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  1. Well-Beered Englishman says:

    Other Noteworthy Brewers Prospects
    Steven Strasburg
    Koko Krisp
    Paul Yawnish
    Myke Trowt
    Jose Bauteesta
    Andrleton Simmons
    Korey Cluber

    +26 Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Jaack says:

    Ratio of K’s in Chris Davis’ season to Khris Davis’ season = 156/20
    Ratio of K’s in Chris Davis’ name to Khris Davis’ name = 0/1

    I think we know who the winner is…

    +9 Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Jake W says:

    #6: The Rock

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Wobatus says:

    Give him a first base glove and practice practice practice.

    Nice to see a guy mash in the small window he had to succeed.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Amare Stoudamire says:

      Kids, don’t try mashing in windows at home. Leave that to the professionals.

      +10 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • C says:

      How many 5-11 first basemen have you seen though? These other guys were generally big enough to easily fit in the first base mold. Khris Davis really doesn’t, which isn’t to say he can’t play first base, but MLB teams tend to avoid giving guys like that a shot.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. #6org says:

    Norichika Aoki? Ching-chong!

    -20 Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. Khrash Davis says:

    Didn’t Pinky Hargrave have a kid sister named Leather?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. gdc says:

    Could you fill out the list to say total HR and # years played if not active? That would help with the flash in the pan test (or with the obscure 70s music theme, Flash and the Pan)

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Buck says:

    Davis HAS tried first base. It’s been a disaster

    And that is a kind assessment

    And the player hated it.

    Maybe if it’s presented as “first base, start in majors or play in Triple A” things change

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. Josh M says:

    I still have a hard time believing Khris David isn’t a not graphs creation.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. frivoflava29 says:

    38.1% hr/fb as of today = yuck! But he still seems like a real 20+ hr threat

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Za says:

      Watching the MLB videos of his dingers, those are not cheap shots. He’s also shown power to center and can go the other way.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • frivoflava29 says:

        Agreed, but I also question how often he’ll be able to square up the ball that well. Regressing to 20% seems realistic looking at some of his videos and with his current batted ball mix, that would still mean 40 or so home runs! It seems too optimistic though.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. archibaldcrane says:

    Unlike before when approached about the first base opportunity, this time Khris has said “whatever keeps me in the bigs”.

    The other possibility is that the Brewers dangle Aoki and his super cheap 1-year contract as trade bait, move Braun and his roughly MLB-average arm to RF, and let Khris play where he belongs.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. When do I get my chance?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. chuck says:

    We need a thumper at first not a 5’11″ guy.
    There are a couple of free agents and guys we can trade for like Adam Dunn , who would come cheap after Chicago pays most of his salary.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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