Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers ’14 – #18 Khris Davis

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(Disclaimer: This is being first published on March 15 despite 18 days away from Opening Day being on March 13th. I had some connectivity issues at home but everything is fixed now.)

Nestled snuggly between off-days in the “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” calendar (because Yount’s is retired and they won’t reissue Gantner’s), number 18 has had its share of history.

And I’d take you through some of that, but we’re still playing catch up. Instead, let’s just talk about the man who currently dons it…

Khris Davis.

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Khristoper Adrian Davis is listed at 5’11″ and 200 pounds. He hails from Lakewood, California by way of Glendale, Arizona. The Brewers drafted him in the seventh round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Cal State-Fullerton. He signed relatively quickly and started his career in the short-season rookie league in Arizona. After that, it was basically a rapid rise through the system as he hit everywhere.

It was his bat that earned him a roster spot when camp broke last year. He headed north with the club after an electric spring training performance. He hit well enough right away when the season began, but it was clear that the lack of an everyday job — and the regular at-bats that come with it — was affecting him greatly. Davis hadn’t ever had to learn how to stay sharp in a bench role before. He got a month, but Davis was sent back to the minors to refind his stroke.

He was recalled in mid-July for a couple of games and came back for good a eight days after that, once Ryan Braun accepted his season-ending suspension. He got himself into the starting lineup by the 9th of August and played well down the stretch. He missed a few games with a sore wrist in September and then injured his leg in a game on September 27, costing him the remainder of the season.

Davis’s final line: .279/.353/.596, 136 AB, 38 H, 27 R, 10 2B, 11 HR, 27 RBI, 3 SB, 0 CS, 11 BB, 34 K

So on to 2014.

Braun will be back in the lineup and Davis is limited to left field defensively because of his throwing arm. However, Davis did enough at the plate in 2013 that it combined with a couple of factors to open up an opportunity at an everyday job.

Norichika Aoki was traded to Kansas City which made RF available, but it was discussed that Braun might go over there anyway. Braun was agreeable and the plan was put into motion.

However, that didn’t guarantee Davis the job and to his credit he said as much as Brewers On Deck in January. He knew he’d have to perform again. He’s started off slowly this year, but hopes that a recent pinch-hit double is a sign of things to come.

This much is certain: Davis offers the best offensive potential of the available left fielders, but also the worst defense. He’ll need to hit to get and keep the starting job. Both of the other options are left-handed in Logan Schafer and Caleb Gindl.

As I was typing that last sentence, something came to me. The Brewers left field situation is like the old “Ice Hockey” video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Khris Davis is the stocky/power guy. Caleb Gindl is the average guy who is second-best at both offense and defense. Logan Schafer is skinny/fast guy who in baseball terms is best at defense with the least stick of the three. I really like that analogy.

I think Davis will win the job and play the vast majority of the time. I think that Schafer spells him most often unless there’s room early on for a fifth outfielder. Than I think Gindl gets many of the Davis off-day starts as Roenicke holds Schafer in reserve as the only true backup centerfielder on the roster. It’s yet another situation that is very dependent on how things end up going at second base and to a lesser degree first.

But the bottom line is that despite his defensive shortcomings, Davis has hit and hit and hit some more in his career. If he’s able to make the necessary adjustments as he sees the league a few more times, it’ll be just what the doctor ordered as the Brewers transition their outfield.

You can (sometimes) follow Khris Davis on Twitter (though currently he’s got it turned off): @Khrisdkhris24

Miss anyone along the way? Catch up on the Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers profiles to this point:

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