After an outstanding half season in 2008, Texas Rangers first baseman Chris Davis generated quite a bit of buzz leading into fantasy drafts in 2009. Davis hit .285/.331/.549 with 17 homers and 55 RBI in 80 games during his rookie campaign in 2008, causing fantasy owners to salivate like Pavlov’s dog. Davis was so hyped, that his status as a sleeper disappeared quickly, and his ADP rose.
Davis was eligible at 1B and 3B in ’09, and was drafted an average of 76th overall, good enough for seventh among 3B and 10th among 1B. Owners, such as myself, saw his raw power dominating in a deadly Texas lineup, and expected his average to hover around the .285 mark he posted in 2008.
What we didn’t see coming, was a devastating start to the 2009 season for Davis. In the first half of the season, Davis hit .202/.256/.415 with 15 homers. The power was still there, but he struck out 114 times in 277 plate appearances. Davis had always been a high strikeout hitter, with his career minor league rate at 25%, and a 29.8% rate in the bigs during ’08. However a 41.2% rate for the first half was scary enough to force the Rangers to consider sending Davis to the minors to work out his problems.
Sure enough, a few days into July, Davis was optioned to Triple-A. He seemed to right the ship while he was there, hitting .327/.418/.521 in 44 games, striking out only 20% of the time and hitting 6 homers. The Rangers felt he was ready to give the bigs another shot, so they recalled him at the end of August. Upon returning, Davis hit .308/.338/.496 with 6 homers in a little over a month. He struck out 25.3% in the second half (36 in 142 PA), much more in line with his career averages. His power may have diminished, but he still drove in 26 runs in 36 games.
What helped bring Davis out of his funk was his ability to simply make contact with the ball. Before being sent down, he has a swing rate of 53.8% and a 22.6% whiff rate according to Trip Somers’ Pitch F/x tool. The same tool said he swung at 52.9% of his pitches after being recalled, with a 14% whiff rate. His opponents pitch selection remained constant in both cases, and after being recalled Davis put fastballs in play at twice the rate that he had before hand.
It all boils down to one question: What should I expect from Davis in 2010? I think that his second half numbers will transfer over into the start of 2010, with his home run rate rising closer to what it was in ’08. To make a quick prediction, I would guess he hits ~.280 with 31 homers if he holds on to the full time 1B job. He may not get to play every day, with the Rangers likely to call up Justin Smoak and looking for a big RH in free agency that could plug the DH role, but I bet they try to find a way to get his bat into the lineup
Davis will be eligible at first base in every league, with added 3B eligibility in others. Due to a scary showing early on last year, he should be falling into a nice ADP where you should feel comfortable snatching him up and playing him everyday.
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