What To Do About Ike Davis
I promise this series will not all be about first basemen who are not living up to the potential we’ve graced them with, but this particular player was suggested by a reader and there’s certainly enough here to make for an interesting piece.
Still only 25 years old, Ike Davis was considered by many to be an overdraft when he was taken 18th overall in the 2008 draft out of Arizona State, and he did nothing his first professional season to quiet those doubters – hitting exactly zero HR in his first 239 plate appearances. Power was supposed to be a big part of his game, so even his supporters were a bit surprised. However, in 2009, Davis hit nearly .300 and powered out 20 HR across two levels (High-A and Double-A). After a very brief stint in Triple-A to start 2010, Davis was called up on April 19th and did not look back, hitting .264 with 19 HR in his rookie season. His 2011 season looked like it was going to be a breakout for him, but after just 36 games of hitting .302/.383/.543, an ankle injury sidelined him and eventually ended his season. This led to him being a trendy sleeper for 2012, but this season has been more negatives than positives thus far.
In spring training, Davis was diagnosed with Valley Fever – otherwise known as “that thing that made Conor Jackson terrible at baseball”. While the Mets downplayed the seriousness of it (medically, it can be either not a big deal or a really big deal), the more Davis slumped in April, the more questions came up about it. To be fair, the Mets and Davis never changed their stance on this – and did not blame the slump on the Valley Fever. But we just don’t know. At the end of May, Davis was hitting .170 with 5 HR, 21 RBI and 49 K’s in 171 PA and hearing calls for him to be demoted to Triple-A.
But since June 1, Davis is hitting .254/.326/.525 with 17 HR, 47 RBI and 63 K’s in 273 PA – and those calls have clearly quieted down. The most interesting thing about Davis’ season is that essentially been a 7-10 split on his PECOTA projections coming into the season. And, yea I just dropped a bowling metaphor. Right now, his .221 batting average is less than his 10% weighted mean projection of .224, while his projected HR total of 27 is higher than his 90% weighted mean projection of 26. So while that’s interesting and all, the important question going forward is what does this mean we should expect out of him next year.
To answer that question, let’s dig a little deeper into his numbers. First of all, a .247 BABIP in 2012 jumps out at you – especially compared to his .321 and .344 numbers from 2010 and 2011. Now I’m not the type to look at this and scream that it’s all luck and regression is coming, though I do think that’s a part of it. Interestingly, Davis has a career high line drive rate of 21.9% (above the MLB average of 20.9%), but he’s only hitting .578 on those line drives and that’s over 100 points lower than league average. All in all, I don’t believe he’s a .330 BABIP player like his career average coming into the season was, but he should settle somewhere between .280 and .300. On the other end of the spectrum, he also is unlikely to carry a HR/FB rate of over 21% going forward. The fences being moved in at Citi Field have probably helped a little, but he’s also averaged over 400 feet on his 2012 HRs and only three of them would have been HRs in fewer than 20 MLB ballparks. So his power is legit, but probably not quite this legit (which would be nearly 40 bombs over 600 PA). The other thing to watch with Davis, are his lefty/righty splits, as in his career, he’s got an 835 v RHP and a 647 OPS v LHP. If you’re in a daily league and can sit him against above replacement-level LHP while he still struggles in this arena, you can extract even more value from him.
If Davis continues to demonstrate he is the player he’s been outside of April/May 2012, he could be a nice sleeper for 2013 and trade target in dynasty leagues. So, while he’s unlikely to be a star (and will probably never be a top-5 fantasy 1B), there’s nothing wrong with a player who should be able to hit .260-.270 with 25-30 HR as soon as 2013 and even has a little upside left in the tank as he enters his prime. This season he’s been the 30th ranked 1B on the ESPN Player Rater, but right now Corey Hart is 11th while hitting .270 with 23 HR and good counting stats (73 R/66 RBI). Ike can do this (albeit with more RBI than R), and if he’s being valued outside the top-15 1B next year, he could provide a nice return on your investment.