Fantasy Baseball Hot Starts: Chris Davis


If you were told at the beginning of the year that someone in the American League would win a Triple Crown in 2013, I’m guessing that most people would believe that Miguel Cabrera would be the man to do it. After all, he did it in 2012 and had flirted with it in the past. If the first two months of the season are an accurate indicator, that would have been a good guess, as Cabrera holds sizable leads in average and RBI, and is within striking distance of home runs.

The man that he is within striking distance of is Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles, our subject today. As a matter of fact, if we eliminate Miggy’s numbers, Davis would be the leader in RBI, and only five points behind the AL batting leader.

When play ended on Sunday, take a look at what Davis’ fantasy stats were:

H/AB R HR RBI SB AVG
58/172 33 16 46 0 .337

Which would put him on the following pace:

H/AB R HR RBI SB AVG
188/557 107 52 149 0 .337

That sure looks pretty. I don’t imagine that one player in baseball would turn down a statline like that at the beginning of the year. Well, Ben Revere may wonder where the power came from and why he all of a sudden couldn’t steal a base, but you get the point.

But as great as those stats are, looking at that pace begs one simple question. Are those numbers sustainable?

Davis was a good hitter in the minors and has shown good power in the majors, but who out there sees him as a Triple Crown candidate? Let’s look at this stat-by-stat and see what we’re probably looking at.

 

Runs

There’s a few ways of looking at this.

  1. We’ll get into this later, but it’s pretty likely that Davis won’t be on base at this same rate over the final four months.
  2. Two hitters behind him, J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters, are both underperforming. If they pick up their performance, they’ll drive Davis in more than they have been.

Ultimately, I lean a little closer to No. 1, and I’d advise fantasy owners to do the same. Pessimism has to reign supreme when it comes to projecting your own guys. If it doesn’t, you’re more likely to be caught off guard in a bad way.

But even without that, I do think Hardy and Wieters will improve, but I don’t like that offsetting Davis not being on base as often. Remember, odds are still with the pitcher in pretty much every at bat. So, if you’re looking at a hitter and trying to split the difference between one positive and one negative factor, lean negative.

Predicted Total: 93

 

Home Runs

I’m inclined to lean negative here. I know that Davis is a strong dude and I am expecting a big home run total. But I want to show you a few numbers.

  • In the minors, Davis homered once every 15.31 at bats. If he homers at that rate this year and stays at his current pace of 557 at bats, he’ll hit 36 homers.
  • In the majors prior 2013, Davis homered once every 19.74 at bats. If he homers at that rate this year and stays at his current pace of 557 at bats, he’ll hit 28 homers.

Even if you give him every benefit of the doubt, you’re going to have a hard time realistically thinking that he’ll eclipse 50 homers.

The one case for the optimist would be Jose Bautista. Prior to 2010, Bautista didn’t carry much of a reputation as a slugger, and he belted 54 homers that year. Actually, through 50 team games (which is what Davis’ current numbers reflect), Bautista had one fewer home run than Davis. Still, he ended up two above the pace that Davis is currently on.

Bautista certainly stands out, but there’s a reason he stands out. Besides, if you carry that example through, you’re saying that Davis actually may be looking at a season closer to 60 homers.

Surges like Bautista had in 2010 are so rare that you really can’t expect it again. Now, I’m willing to give Davis more homers than any of the above HR per AB totals would have him at, but I can’t get to 50, or even that close.

Predicted Total: 41

 

 

RBI

It’s a little hard to predict this one, as it relies on more than just Davis. But let’s delve into the OBP history of Nate McLouth, Manny Machado, Nick Markakis, and Adam Jones — the guys who Davis will be driving in.

2013 OBP Previous Career OBP
McLouth .372 .335
Machado .358 .344 (MiLB), .294 (MLB)
Markakis .358 .365
Jones .353 .323

They’re not bad on base guys by any stretch of the imagination. But except for Markakis, every one of those guys is ahead of their previous career OBP, and significantly.

Now, as we established above, we can expect a drop from Davis’ power. Not only is 50 plus homers unrealistic, but his career slugging percentage coming into 2013 was .466. Thus far, he’s slugging .721. I’m not saying that he’ll drop to .466, but if he finished the year slugging .600, he’s still going to be producing hits, especially extra-base hits, at a lower rate.

So, if he’s getting fewer extra-base hits and the men in front of him aren’t on base as often, this is pretty obviously a category where his pace will fall off.

Predicted Total: 115

 

Steals

Well, he can’t possibly fall off of his current pace. Honestly, Davis may catch a pitcher off guard, or get the back end of a double steal, but I highly doubt that anyone put him on the team hoping for a big kick in the stolen base department. So, we don’t need to devote any more time here.

Predicted Total: 2 (Don’t call me a complete pessimist!)

 

Batting Average

Davis is a .266 career hitter in the majors. If you eliminate what he’s done in 2013, that number is .258.

Davis was a .318 hitter in the minors.

While his minor league totals were generally improving year-by-year, it’s tough to see him adding nearly 20 points to his minor league average over a full year in the majors.

It doesn’t stop there.

Only twice, 2009 and 2012, has Davis played over 100 Major League games. His strikeout totals in those seasons were high.

GP Strikeouts 162 Game Pace
2009 113 150 236
2012 139 169 197

Through 50 team games, he’s struck out 48 times. That puts him on a pace somewhere around 155 by season’s end. I guess the good news is that the numbers are decreasing, but that is still a massive number.

If Davis bats .300 from this point on and gets to the 557 at-bats, his total average for the 2013 season will be .312.

That’s a great average, but even that’s a drop from his current pace. So here’s a question. Do you really think that a guy with that kind of strikeout rate will bat .300 over the next 112 games? It’s possible, but striking out is giving up an at bat. The odds are against hitters getting a hit anyway, but it’s actually impossible to get a hit if you don’t make contact with the ball. That’s really technical baseball stuff there, I don’t blame you if you can’t quite pick up on it.

Remember, big home run and RBI guys swing for the fences and gaps. They’re rarely up there with the idea that they just want to put a ball in play. So, if you told me that Davis’ strikeout rate will not stay the same and asked me to guess if it would increase or decrease, I’d say increase.

I’d personally guess that he’d be more likely to hit .275 from here on out. Judging by his Major League history, that’s still relatively optimistic. But let’s go with it.

Predicted Total: .294.

 

What should his fantasy owners do?

I just gave Davis the following statline:

R HR RBI SB AVG
93 41 115 2 .294

Just as a reminder, let’s look at what our Draft Kit Projections were:

R HR RBI SB AVG
76 27 87 4 .268

So even though I was pessimistic in every category except steals, my numbers would still have him blowing away our projections in every category. Again, except steals.

But now you’re not just laying out goals at the beginning of the year. Now you can see where you and your league rivals stand in every category. Where are you good? Where are you not so good?

With Davis, I’d keep in mind that the first two months of the year will likely be his best two of the season. Because if my projected totals do become reality, this is what his numbers will be over the next four months.

R HR RBI SB AVG
63 25 69 2 .275

Those are still good, but clearly dropping.

So, my advice is to find someone who needs some power and sell high. This is especially true if you foresee a battle in batting average, because that’s where the biggest drop will almost certainly come from. If you need the power, keeping Davis may not be the worst idea. Still, watch his numbers over the next few weeks or even months. Keep in mind that for your team to stay strong, you may have to find bigger production elsewhere.

Tags: Baltimore Orioles Chris Davis