Fantasy Baseball: Khris Davis Is One of Baseball's Most Underrated Power Hitters
If you want to get famous, playing for the Oakland Athletics right now isn't the place to do it.
Sure, Moneyball made everyone familiar with general manager Billy Beane, and when the A's were one of the best teams in baseball during the late 1980s and mid-2000s, players like Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, and Jason Giambi were household names. But casual baseball fans would be hard-pressed to name even one player who plays in Oakland right now.
The Athletics haven't been to the playoffs the last three seasons. They've been away from the social consciousness, trying to field a competitive team with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball (ranked 27th out of 30 teams on Opening Day last season). But despite all that, there is one name everyone should know, especially season-long fantasy baseball owners, in 2018.
Folks, Khris Davis is one of the best power hitters in baseball, and you should get to know him better.
Consistent Power Bat
Davis has been one of the most reliable sluggers over the last two seasons, hitting 42 in 2016 before launching a career-high 43 bombs last year. That was the third-highest total in baseball, trailing only Aaron Judge (52) and Giancarlo Stanton (59). He also added 110 RBI and 91 runs scored in 2017, which are also new single-season career bests.
And while his slugging percentage of .528 was 26th-best among qualified hitters, a better number to gauge raw power is isolated power (ISO), which is calculated by taking a player's slugging percentage and subtracting his batting average from it. This allows us to see their raw power by looking solely at a batter's extra-base hits.
Davis' .281 ISO was sixth-highest in the Majors last season, behind Cody Bellinger, Mike Trout, Joey Gallo, Judge, and Stanton. It's the best number we can look at to determine just how much power a hitter brings to the table.
Hitting for a high average has never been something Davis has accomplished. In his four full seasons as an every-day player, he has batted .244, .247, .247 and .247. So yeah, you pretty much know what you're going to get there.
But Davis walked in 11.2% of his plate appearances in 2017, which is a drastic improvement from the 6.9% mark he posted the year before. That walk rate from last year was tied for the 36th-highest mark in baseball, which may not be great, but much closer to the top of the 144-player leaderboard than the bottom.
He also saw some positive regression in his chase rate (31.3% in '16, 26.6% in '17), along with his swinging-strike rate (16.6% in '16, 14.7% in '17), so it appears that his improvements in this area is sustainable.
Improvement With the Fastball
According to FanGraphs, Davis simply wailed on fastballs last season better than he ever has before. According to their pitch type linear weight measurement wFA, Davis was worth 16.7 runs above average on fastballs, the highest total of his career. The year before, that number settled in at just 3.0.
Now, a couple important notes on this stat. First, it is not predictive -- linear weight measurements tell us what a player has done, not necessarily what a player might do moving forward. Also, pitches can be classified incorrectly and we're dealing with small sample sizes.
However, Brooks Baseball helps add some more context. Against four-seam fastballs in 2016, Davis had a batting average of .226, a slugging percentage of .548 and an isolated power of .321 off the strength of 15 homers. Last year, he hit .295 with a slugging percentage of .690 and an isolated power of .395 off the strength of 20 bombs.
That's definite improvement, likely brought on by his declining chase rate, forcing pitchers to throw strikes more often.
There are certainly more complete outfielders that will be selected before Davis in fantasy drafts this season. While he did rank 3rd at the position in terms of home runs and was 5th in ISO, he was tied for 13th in wOBA and 12th in wRC+.
His current ADP resides outside the top-100, according to NFBC, but his true value may lie in auction leagues, where smart owners may spend more on positions with less offensive talent (like catcher or second base) while snagging Davis and his ability to hit 40-plus dingers for a discount.
You're not going to get average and you're also not going to get a lot of on-base percentage, but you're going to get a bunch of power and a consistent performer from one of the most underrated power hitters in today's game.