Could Ike Davis Be Mets 2010 First Baseman?

An article by posted on October 27, 2009

Before we get started, I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself.  My name is Eric Stashin and I run www.rotoprofessor.com, a fantasy baseball website that has been around since January 2007.  We cover all of baseball and I hope to bring some of that here to all of you.  On top of that, I have the misery (I think we all feel that way right now) of being a life long Mets fan.  I look forward to providing some of that insight to all of you here!

We all know the Mets have countless holes to fill. For a team with one of the highest payrolls in baseball, it seems unfathomable that they would need so much help. Exactly where are they spending their money?

As you ponder that question, you also must consider how the Mets will fill their many voids. One such void is at first base, with the 37-year old Carlos Delgado highly unlikely to return and Daniel Murphy proving last season that he just does not have the bat to be utilized as a full-time corner infielder. With a relatively weak free agent market, you have to wonder if the team will look within to fill the void. Lucky for them, their top hitting prospect, Ike Davis, is a first baseman.

Drafted in the first round of the 2008 draft (18th overall), Davis has quickly proven that he was more than a low-risk, signability selection. Splitting time between Single and Double-A in 2009, he hit .298 with 20 HR and 71 RBI in 429 AB in 2009. Being sent to the Arizona Fall League to gain more experience, he has made a lasting impression in just two games going 5-9 with 1 HR, 8 RBI and 2 R.

Thus far he’s struck out just once, but it clearly is a minimal sample size. As we dig into his minor league numbers since being drafted, we notice that his ability to make contact is becoming a concern:

  • Low Single-A (215 AB) – 20.0%
  • High Single-A (222 AB) – 23.4%
  • Double-A (207 AB) – 29.0%

With that knowledge, you have to question his ability to hit for a consistently high average. While he hit .309 during his stay at Double-A, it came courtesy of a .381 BABIP. Obviously it is unlikely that he can continue at that type of pace and it will likely be exposed further as he moves up the ranks.

With an average that seems destined to crash and burn, you have to wonder if he will be able to produce enough power to justify his usage. His flyball rate, which was a lowly 34.1% in 2008, rose to a solid 42.8% in 2009. That number would allow him to potentially contribute enough. Examples of those who did it in the major leagues this year:

  • Justin Morneau – 42.9% (30 HR)
  • Evan Longoria – 41.8% (33 HR)
  • Jason Kubel – 41.6% (28 HR)

As he continues to mature, if he can maintain his current flyball rate it would not be out of the question to see him reach the 30 HR plateau. Of course, playing in CitiField may hinder that slightly, but the potential is there.

The problem is, would the power be able to overcome an average that is more likely to be at .250 as opposed to .290? He’s not likely to suddenly become Ryan Howard or Adam Dunn, launching moon shots and routinely topping 40 HR.

The fact is, no matter what he does in the AFL, it is nearly impossible for him to answer the one, large question. Will he be able to consistently put bat to ball in the major leagues? Until we can answer that, the idea of the Mets turning the 1B job over to him is an alarming one, especially without some sort of contingency plan. That’s how the Mets problems grew in 2009 and you need to learn from your mistakes.

The team’s best bet would be to sign a placeholder for 2010, someone who they could easily slide to the bench if Davis tears up Triple-A, proving that he can rake. At the same time, you want someone that could do the job for the entire season, in case Davis struggles. Could someone like Russell Branyon or Adam LaRoche fit into the Mets plans?

At this point, that’s the course I would take. I’d expect him to open the season in Triple-A, likely staying there until the All-Star Break, at the earliest. With the potential that he doesn’t make an impact this season, I’d consider him a low-end option outside of the deepest of keeper leagues, one that should be left on the waiver wire. Obviously, the Mets plans for Davis could change that, but at this point that’s where we are.

What are your thoughts? Could Davis be a usable fantasy option? If you were the Mets, how would you advance him in 2010?

For more Fantasy Info visit me at rotoprofessor.com

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