Heading into play on Tuesday evening, Mets first baseman Ike Davis is scuffling. With a .172/.271/.382 batting line, patience is beginning to wear thin for the fans in New York. The former first-round pick was ticketed for stardom and immense power production, but it's fair to ask if he'll ever become that player.
If this topic feels redundant, it's for good reason. Through this date last season, Davis was batting .173/.236/.276, flailing at pitches outside the strike zone and generating discussion about a demotion to the minor leagues.
Matt Harvey's career on-base percentage (.267) is higher than Ike Davis's OBP this season (.265).— Jared Diamond (@jareddiamond) May 1, 2013
Of course, after going basically 0-for-April/May, Davis finished with a flurry.
In the 100 games from June 9 through the end of the season, Davis slugged .565, smashed 27 home runs and drove in 69 runs. In the second half of 2012, he was the sixth most valuable first baseman in the sport, behind only names such as Fielder, Pujols, Gonzalez, LaRoche and Encarnacion.
Before we conclude that Davis is just a slow starter and bigger things are to come this summer, let's not forget his start to the 2011 season. In 36 games prior to a freak ankle injury ended his season, the then 24-year-old posted a .925 OPS.
From that moment onward, fans expected and hoped for star production out of Davis, and have instead endured inconsistencies, strikeouts and slow starts.
As the years go on, it's becoming harder to believe that Davis will reach that ceiling. That's not to say he won't continue a path to a long, productive career, but it might be time to temper expectations on what he can actually become.
When comparing the career of Davis through his first three seasons in the big leagues to the first basemen of the last 25 years, it's clear that the jury is still out on his future.
Heading into 2013, Davis had a career OPS+ of 118. In other words, he's been 18 percent better than league average. While that's far below the standards set by the young versions of Frank Thomas, Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols and Jeff Bagwell, it's right around the marks posted by Justin Morneau and Paul Konerko.
It's fair to say that we have enough evidence that Davis isn't on the path to the Hall of Fame like those first four names. However, a career arc similar to 2006 AL MVP Morneau or Konerko would leave Met fans more than satisfied.
Yet, names like James Loney and Brad Fullmer also lie near Davis on the list. Both were highly touted and made splashes early, but ultimately never improved.
With Terry Collins managing this season as a lame duck in New York, playing time and the makings of a semi-platoon have begun to develop within the Mets lineup. Over the last week, Davis has sat on multiple occasions against an opposing left-handed starting pitcher. If that continues, it can become harder and harder for him to develop enough of a rhythm to break out of his funk.
Justin Turner is expected to start at 1B over Ike Davis on Wednesday against left-hander Wade LeBlanc.— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN) May 1, 2013
While Collins tries to win games, general manager Sandy Alderson is looking to the future, hoping Davis will come around and continue to develop.
According to Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News, the Mets and Alderson expect Davis to come around.
Of course, part of that may be the lack of internal or external options for the franchise to turn to at first base.
As Howard Megdal of LoHud Mets points out, there's no first baseman in the system projected to be a star, few options in the upcoming free-agent market and Davis is still a young player under team control.
Unless you believe in Lucas Duda's ability at the plate and are ready to hand him first base, Davis should keep getting the opportunity to thrive.
Ike Davis hit with a pitch. Impressed that he didn't swing at it. Progress.— D.J. Short (@djshort) May 1, 2013
Considering that Davis is swinging at less pitches outside the strike zone than ever before, posting a very low BABIP (batting average on balls in play) and walking more than last year, he's due to break out sooner than later.
Yet the slow starts, high strikeout rates and time spent finding his stroke each season are bound to catch up and halt his career projections.
At the age of 26, Davis is still a valuable piece and good bet to crank 25-plus home runs for many years, but the idea of him becoming a star to build around is becoming less believable, one slump at a time.
Do you still believe in Ike Davis?