Most hitters will likely be labeled as a potential bust candidate after a career year. Career years are special. Hence the name “career year.” They typically only happen once in a career.
Chris Davis had a massive breakout with a 53-homer, 138-RBI, .286 batting average season in 2013 and won a lot of guys a lot of fantasy titles. Davis might not hit 53 homers in 2014, but that will not make him a bust. Davis deserves to be drafted in the first ten picks of any applicable snake draft without question.
Davis had a unique reputation before coming to Baltimore. He wasn’t a headcase. He wasn’t a flake. He was a workout warrior who would often take more than 200 swings in the batting cages to practice his all-or-nothing hitting style. These workouts would leave Davis exhausted and took their toll on his body over the course of a season. He switched to shorter workouts designed to help Davis hit to all fields instead of constantly trying to pull the ball.
If you look at Davis’ heat maps, the places where he hits baseballs in and around the strike zone, you’d notice a startling difference between his slugging percentage with two strikes. In his pre-Orioles career, Davis was susceptible to pitches in the upper portion of the zone and the low inside corner. Both areas feature large patches of blue. After adjusting his approach in Baltimore, Davis heat map is essentially a large blob of red. Davis doesn’t have the same holes in his swing that he used to.
His spray charts reveal a similar pattern. Pre-Orioles, Davis has a huge cluster on the left side of the field. Lots of ground balls and line drives to second and first and the area behind second and first. His spray charts from last year still show a similar pattern, but the cluster extends into the outfield and is dotted with more line drives. There also appears to be a large cluster of line drives in left field.
Davis will still swing and miss, but his swings and misses go hand in hand with his prodigious power. He could very well post a K% over 30%, but he’ll also post a LD % over 20%. The only other hitter in the top ten in K% that posted a LD % over 20% last year was Mike Napoli with 24.4%. Last year was also the first and only year that Napoli has posted a LD % over 20% in his career. A higher LD % means that Davis is capable of posting the power numbers that fantasy GMs expect, but it doesn’t come with as large a hit on batting average that fantasy GMs take when they carry Mark Reynolds or Pedro Alvarez.
Davis hits balls in the air and they go far.
Chris Davis displayed elite level skills at the plate and deserves to be drafted as such. He’s a worthy pick in the back of the first round, but a case could be made for Davis in the first half of the first round as well for a fantasy GM looking to add one of the few legit 35+ homer guys in baseball who doesn’t come with nearly the same warts that some of the other big-time power hitters come with.