Fantasy Baseball: Is Chris Davis A Keeper?

Mitchell Layton - Getty Images

Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Chris Davis has hit five home runs in his last four games and now has 31 long balls in 2012. Does that make him worth keeping in fantasy baseball leagues for 2013 and beyond?

If your fantasy baseball season is over, done, kaput and you’re not paying attention to the American League playoff race, a) shame on you, and b) you might have missed out on one of the latest big leaguers to join the 30-home run club in 2012. That honor belongs to Orioles designated hitter Chris Davis, who clubbed his 30th dinger – a two-run shot off Red Sox starter Felix Doubront – in the fourth inning of Saturday’s 4-3 win against Boston. But Davis didn’t stop there. The next day he hit No. 31 – his fifth home run in his last four games – tying him for 17th most in the majors. Take that Mike Trout (he of a mere 30 home runs). Davis is now hitting .272/.328/.496 with 31 home runs, 82 RBI, 73 runs and two stolen bases on the year.

The recent barrage of home runs from Davis shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. He’s a historically streaky hitter and that’s why you often find him sitting on the waiver wire sporadically throughout the year. Back in late August he did a similar thing and hit five home runs in a span of five games, including one game with three alone. If you were lucky enough to pick him up prior to his most recent outburst, kudos to you. His timely reign of good streakiness has likely paid off hugely in your quest for fantasy baseball glory just as it has paid off for the Orioles in their quest for meaningful baseball after September.

For your viewing pleasure, here are Davis’ career stats, courtesy of Baseball-Reference:

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2008 22 TEX AL 80 317 295 51 84 23 2 17 55 1 2 20 88 .285 .331 .549 .880 128
2009 23 TEX AL 113 419 391 48 93 15 1 21 59 0 0 24 150 .238 .284 .442 .726 85
2010 24 TEX AL 45 136 120 7 23 9 0 1 4 3 0 15 40 .192 .279 .292 .571 51
2011 25 TOT AL 59 210 199 25 53 12 0 5 19 1 0 11 63 .266 .305 .402 .707 89
2011 25 TEX AL 28 81 76 9 19 3 0 3 6 0 0 5 24 .250 .296 .408 .704 85
2011 25 BAL AL 31 129 123 16 34 9 0 2 13 1 0 6 39 .276 .310 .398 .708 92
2012 26 BAL AL 136 551 504 73 137 20 0 31 82 2 3 37 162 .272 .328 .496 .825 121
5 Yrs 433 1633 1509 204 390 79 3 75 219 7 5 107 503 .258 .310 .464 .774 103
162 Game Avg. 162 611 565 76 146 30 1 28 82 3 2 40 188 .258 .310 .464 .774 103
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/1/2012.

Prior to 2012, Davis’ best year in terms of power came in 2009 with the Texas Rangers – when he hit 21 home runs in 419 plate appearances and somehow only managed to drive in 59 runs. In a way, this was a long time coming for Davis. He always showed good power skills while in the Rangers minor league system and a 30-home run campaign was never out of the question for the lefty slugger. It’s not surprising at all that in his first season with over 550 plate appearances, Davis finally broke out. Depending on your league size and on the number of keepers allowed, Davis is an intriguing option to stash. Should we expect 30 home runs to be the norm going forward and is that enough to keep the 26-year old around for 2013 and beyond?

What the table above doesn’t show you is that Davis’ skills at the plate continue to not impress. His 2012 strikeout rate of 29.4% and walk rate of 6.7% fall right in line with his career marks of 30.8% and 6.6%, respectively. And his .338 BABIP in 2012 still seems a bit fluky for someone who swings and misses at 15.3% of pitches thrown to him (the league average is 9.1%).

The fact that Davis has first base, third base, outfield and designated hitter eligibility boosts his value tremendously. But in 2013, Davis loses third base eligibility and that’s a big blow considering there’s more talent at first base than at third. Sad to say, he also doesn’t gain eligibility at relief pitcher for picking up a win in two shutout innings against the Red Sox back on May 6. Even with a 31-home run season, Davis has failed to crack the top 10 on ESPN’s Player Rater at third base, trailing behind the Giants Marco Scutaro for that distinction. At first base, Davis ranks 14th, and in the outfield, he ranks (scrolling for it…) 43rd.

Depending on your league size and how many keepers you are allowed, I can see Davis becoming a trendy guy to hold onto. I’d resist that temptation, however. There are 26 other guys with 30-plus home runs in the majors right now and I’d say just about each and every one of them would be a more worthwhile keeper than Davis minus Alfonso Soriano and maybe Adam LaRoche.

And yes. I'd even keep Mike Trout, who has one less homer.

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