Can Orioles Slugger Chris Davis Become MLB's Next Jose Bautista?

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Can Orioles Slugger Chris Davis Become MLB's Next Jose Bautista?

Heading into the 2013 season, Orioles first baseman Chris Davis wasn't a well-known star in the Baltimore lineup.

Within four games, that's changed.

Davis is off to a torrid start for Baltimore, helping the Orioles jump out to a 3-1 record. Coming off a 33-home run season in 2012, Davis' power is no secret around the league. His ability to harness it into superstar status may no longer be, either.

Despite a .501 slugging percentage in 2012, consistent playing time and a steady everyday position weren't guaranteed to the Orioles slugger until Baltimore made the decision to let Mark Reynolds leave in the offseason.

That decision will be prescient if Davis continues to build on his early-season success, which is truly a continuation of his late-season surge in 2012.

The four home runs in four games to start 2013 is remarkable, even more so when looking at his game logs from last September: Over his last 11 games, Davis has hit 11 home runs.

A September power surge leading to star status is reminiscent of what Toronto star Jose Bautista did in rising from obscurity to lead the Blue Jays lineup in the blink of an eye.

Before dissecting whether Davis can be anything close to the next Bautista, as opposed to the new Chris Shelton, let's compare their respective career numbers before the star-level breakouts occurred.

Jose Bautista was a below-average slugger from 2004 to '09. There was a reason he bounced around from Tampa Bay to Kansas City to Pittsburgh to Baltimore to Toronto: He couldn't hit consistently.

Sure, the swing and power were there, but Bautista struck out 434 times in just over 2,000 plate appearances. In other words, more than 20 percent of the time.

Unlike now, he wasn't hitting for enough power or walking enough to offset the strikeouts. His 91 OPS+ and .729 OPS were both below average.

Davis, despite never receiving consistent playing time in Texas or Baltimore, is a more accomplished hitter heading into 2013 than Bautista was heading into his 2010 breakout.

Despite a strikeout-to-walk ratio that was significantly worse than Bautista's pre-breakout form, he has been a better home-run hitter and slugger throughout his young career.

The comparison becomes truly interesting when looking at the September numbers each put up before their breakouts onto the national stage.

In September of 2009, Bautista was unstoppable for a Blue Jays team that few bothered to watch. His .257 average and .339 on-base percentage weren't eye-opening. The .606 slugging percentage and 10 September home runs were, however.

In September of 2012, Davis posted even more impressive numbers than Bautista did a few years back. The fact that he slugged 1.057 with 10 home runs in the midst of a pennant race should have received more attention than it did at the time.

Heading into 2010, few believed Bautista was truly a star in the making. The same can be said for Davis now.

In terms of raw power, the case can be made for Davis bringing more to the table than Bautista. His ability to flick his wrist and send the ball out to all fields is a weapon for Buck Showalter's order.

There is a precedent for predicting bigger and better things for Davis.

Of course, there are the pitfalls in the Chris Davis 2013 MVP Campaign.

Although his body of work, power and big start lends Orioles fans to believe he can become that guy Bautista became for Toronto, he hasn't yet corrected his biggest flaw: strikeout-to-walk ratio. 

Bautista did. Much was made about Joey Bats changing his swing, but that didn't tell the full story. He changed his swing and his approach at the plate. Not only did he hit for power; he made pitchers come into his wheelhouse, the same way Joey Votto does it now. It's the way Barry Bonds did it for so many years.

In 2010, Bautista walked nearly equal to the amount of times (100-116) he struck out. In 2011, the year he finished third in the AL MVP voting, he walked 21 more times than he struck out (132-111).

Until Davis shows major growth in that area, pitchers will generate easy outs by inducing bad contact and taking away his aggressiveness in pitchers' counts.

Last year, the Orioles slugger walked in 6.6 percent of his plate appearances. He struck out in 30.1 percent of his plate appearances.

Davis has great power, but it's going to take a considerable leap in plate discipline to become the next Jose Bautista.

For Baltimore fans, enjoy the 30-plus home runs, but don't expect to chant "MVP!" during Davis' at-bats this summer. 

 

Is Chris Davis baseball's next star?

Comment below, follow me on Twitter @JoeGiglioSports or "Like" my Facebook page to talk all things baseball.

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