2013 Fantasy Baseball MVP: Chris Davis

The idea of a Fantasy Baseball MVP has been fascinating to me. In baseball’s true award season, many of us (including myself) lament the invocation of the term “value” because the MVP should rightfully be given to each league’s best player.

In fantasy baseball, though, value is paramount. If you drafted Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout with the first-overall pick, you clearly acquired a stud. However, it didn’t take much skill to determine Cabrera and Trout would be elite fantasy players, and with the first-overall pick, you’re expected to choose the best player in the game. That’s one of the perks of drafting first.

Furthermore, we can objectively determine in fantasy baseball which player performed at the highest level throughout the season. We know Miguel Cabrera accumulated the most points in ESPN leagues. Chris Davis was the best, according to Zach Sanders’ rankings from earlier today.

So, the notion of best isn’t relevant when it comes to the Fantasy Baseball MVP. It truly boils down to value. Which player provided elite production without costing a high-round draft pick in snake drafts or a large stack of cash in auction leagues? Because that’s how championships are won.

Some subjectivity still exists when determining which player represented the highest value. I thought about guys like Paul Goldschmidt, Jean Segura or even Hunter Pence, but in the end, the choice was relatively obvious: Chris Davis is my Fantasy Baseball MVP for the 2013 season.

Here’s how Davis ranked in each standard category among 140 qualified position players:

Stat Ranking
AVG 40
HR 1
R 5
SB 77

Essentially, owners who drafted Davis received top-of-the-line power and run production without sacrificing batting average. That’s crazy valuable, even punting the stolen base category. Oh, and if your league favors OBP over AVG, he becomes even more special because he ranked 24th in OBP.

As discussed above, though, the Fantasy Baseball MVP is tied to value and not just providing elite production in the standard categories. Unlike Cabrera or Trout, Chris Davis wasn’t drafted anywhere near the first round. In fact, his average draft position was 133.9 this spring, which would be anywhere between the 13th and 14th round depending on the number of teams in the league. Getting a top-five player (at least) in those rounds is an absolute steal.

To put this in perspective, another “Davis” was being drafted ahead of the 2013 MVP: Ike Davis. The same Ike Davis who wasn’t even a top-50 first baseman this year. Even Lyle Overbay and Conor Gillaspie were more productive than Ike Davis. The idea that Chris Davis (a truly elite player) went after Ike Davis in most drafts is ridiculous, but people obviously didn’t have the gift of hindsight prior to the season.

Chris Davis wasn’t the only player drafted in the lower rounds to have a tremendous season. Guys like Matt Carpenter, Jose Fernandez, Alfonso Soriano and Hisashi Iwakuma — in addition to the players mentioned earlier in the article — were all game-changers this season in leagues, but in my mind, the most valuable player in all of fantasy baseball this season was Chris Davis.

In celebration, watch Crush Davis destroy a 466-foot homer in “pitcher-friendly” AT&T Park in San Francisco:


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J.P. Breen is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. For analysis on the Brewers and fantasy baseball, you can follow him on Twitter (@JP_Breen).

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The key marker for targeting Chris Davis at a point higher than the average 133rd pick were his 10 HR’s in Sept 2012 and his BB% which jumped from around 5-7% from April to August to 10% in September. We’re taught not to rely on small sample sizes, but sometimes with a guy like Chris Davis who never really received consistent plate appearances until 2012, it seems to make sense to look at his most recent performance.