Can Khris Davis Repeat in 2014? Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Long thought of as a AAAA player by scouts, Khris Davis showed some real promise at the plate in what was a disappointing season for the Brewers. With a swing scouts labeled too long, severe defensive limitations, and a left-field occupied by the best player in Brewers’ history, a path to being an impact player appeared very unlikely for Davis. Despite this, a suspension to Braun paved the way for him into a near everyday role. He took the oppurtuity by storm posting a .279/.353/.596 line with a 160 wRC+. Another player who’s performance exceeded expectations, the big question is whether he can keep up the performance and be worthy of an everyday job.
The first thing to understand about Davis is that he is strictly a left fielder. He has one of the worst outfield arms in MLB, and attempts to make himself defensively playable at first base had reportedly failed. This posts a predicament in giving Davis an everyday role since franchise player Ryan Braun currently mans left field. While there has been speculation about trading Norichika Aoki this off-season and moving Braun to right field to accompany Davis’ bat in left, Braun is not an ideal right fielder with an arm that is less than impressive.
The major reason scouts were so down on Davis’ offensive future was that he has an extremely long swing. Davis doesn’t do an ideal job of tucking his back elbow into his torso on rotation which causes him to come around the baseball, and make him him more susceptible to off-speed pitches away. You can particularly notice then when looking at Davis’ spray chart and noticing the high number of groundouts to the pull-side, a side-effect of a long swing.
One surprising stat about Davis’ offensive output is that it was not supported by a high BABIP. In fact, Davis’ BABIP (.293) falls very close to the traditional .300. Do not expect an increase in BABIP even though he falls below the average mark as he hits a high number of fly balls (37 percent).
The most impressive part of Davis’ game was the legitimate power he showcased. A very impressive .316 ISO takes him off the charts. His minor league numbers show ISO numbers about .100 points lower, so we should not expect the gaudy power output to continue at the same rate. This power surge can be attributed to a very high HR/FB rate of nearly 29 percent. That also falls well above any sustainable rate, so we should expect that to regress severely.
While there are several things that should regress next year, there are bright spots that Davis can build upon. He posted an eight percent walk rate in 2013 after posting rates in the mid teens throughout his minor league career. Walks rates generally increase as a player ages so Davis sporting at least an average walk rate going forward is not an outlandish claim.
While Davis’ profile is far from the prototypical, the Brewers should be spending 2014 evaluating what they have in him. Moving Aoki to a contending team seems like the logical thing to do, and whether they play Braun or Davis in right field is fairly irrelevant. The Brewers should see whether Davis is just a bat first, fourth outfielder or a competent starter at a corner spot. The numbers say Davis should regress a fair amount going forward, but Davis is a player that has defied the expectations of him at each level so don’t count him out going forward.