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Chris Davis: Fantasy Value After Trade to Orioles

If you haven’t seen new Orioles first baseman Chris Davis‘ stats at Triple-A this season, you might want to put down your morning coffee to avoid spillage before you read on.

But before we get to those spill-worthy stats, in the interest of unabashed self-appreciation, allow me to take advantage of an opportunity to pat myself on the back. Looking at the very first Mining the Minors column from April, in which I happened to highlight the 25-year-old Davis — who, along with pitcher Tommy Hunter, was traded from Texas to Baltimore for reliever Koji Uehara — it’s both instantly and abundantly clear that I was dead on when it came to 1) the possibility of Davis being traded; 2) the return from the deal being a pitcher; and 3) the acquiring team’s interest in giving Davis the reins going forward. (To continue the theme of playing up my genius, please discontinue your reading of that link immediately following the write-up on Davis, so as not to expose yourselves to my Scott Mathieson-sized blind spot.)

Now about Davis’ numbers. In just 48 games at Triple-A Round Rock (Texas’ affiliate), Davis had compiled the following you-might-want-to-put-your-coffee-down-now digits:

.368 batting average
.824 slugging percentage
1.229 on base-plus-slugging
24 home runs
66 RBIs

Folks, those came in all of 193 at-bats — prior to the trade, Davis had seen action in 28 big-league contests while jockeying up and down this year — meaning the lefty masher literally hit a homer every other game and tallied nearly 1.5 RBIs per game. So when the O’s starting first base job suddenly became available after Derrek Lee, the incumbent, was sent to the Pirates shortly after Davis came aboard, well, it only made sense that the professional baseball player with the best home run rate in the entire world would get the gig. Indeed, with Lee out of the way, Davis is expected to become the everyday first baseman, and Buck Showalter inserted him into the lineup there in the first post-trade game to prove it. (Davis has also played 9 games at third base, which makes him more valuable if he’s eligible there based on your league’s settings.) And while there’s typically some concern with a hitter leaving the haven that is Rangers Ballpark, in this case, Davis still gets to swing his stick in the equally hitter-friendly environment that is Camden Yards.

Before things get blown out of proportion here, though, it must be pointed out that Davis’ one career-killing flaw — strikeouts — hasn’t gone away or even gotten any better. He owns a 32% K rate in nearly 1,000 trips to the plate as a major leaguer, and he still whiffed in just under 30% of his Triple-A at-bats this year. Plus, his walk rate in 2011 (5% in Triple-A and 6% with Texas) has decreased slightly from his past levels, which isn’t exactly indicative of any kind of adjustments or alterations to Davis’ approach. Still, despite the inherent batting average risk he poses, fantasy owners everywhere, especially those in need of power, should consider starting (AL-only), adding (12-to-15-team mixed) or at the very least watch listing (10-team) Mr. Davis. It’s not every day that a potential 30-homer bat (over a full season) just crops up on the fantasy landscape, and with his first real chance at extended playing time since early in the 2009 season, there aren’t likely to be (m)any other free agents as widely-available as Davis — he’s owned in less than 2% of both ESPN and Yahoo! leagues — with the ability to smack 8-12 jacks over the final two months.