Is Chris Davis Becoming the Next Generation of David Ortiz?
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Hello, boys and girls. It's fairy tale time.
Today, we're going to be learning about the story of how a great hitter came to be.
Once upon a time...
There was a promising young slugger.
This slugger hit with a big stick from the left side, and he was once a top prospect in the minors who showed flashes of his ability and power at the major league level. Alas, he never could seem to stick in the big leagues.
And so the slugger's team grew tired of the slugger not slugging, and he became a forgotten first baseman, overlooked and underappreciated by his team, which simply chose to move on from all that promise and all that power.
And the slugger was sad.
But then! The slugger got a new team, one that believed in him and wanted him and just knew he could do it if only given the chance.
Well, the slugger was so very grateful that he repaid his new team by hitting so many home runs that he became the true star he was always meant to be—only a handful of years later and in a different land.
And the name of that slugger, boys and girls, is Davis Ortiz.
You see, Davis Ortiz is actually not one, but two sluggers with very similar stories—Chris Davis and David Ortiz. That's where the name comes from, combining the two last names.
But what's the moral of the story?
That's right! Always be patient with future MVP candidates!
Now that we've established how closely the Chris Davis' career arc seems to be mimicking that of David Ortiz, let's retrace the steps along the way to see how each slugger got to where they are.
In the Minors
All the way back in 1998, Ortiz, who was signed out of the Dominican Republic six years prior, checked in as Baseball America's 84th-best prospect in the game. Initially inked by the Seattle Mariners, Ortiz was traded—as a player to be named later—to the Minnesota Twins in 1996.
Davis, by comparison, was the publication's No. 65 overall prospect prior to the 2008 season—exactly 10 years later—after being drafted in the fifth round in 2006 out of Navarro College in Texas by the Texas Rangers.
They both got to that level of prospect status by doing a lot of mashing.
Ortiz hit .317 with 31 homers and 124 RBI across three levels in the minors during his breakout 1997 campaign at age 21.
Davis? He went for .297, 36 and 118 across two minor league levels during his breakthrough 2007.
Even though both players showed some serious flaws in their plate discipline—Ortiz sported a 23.9 percent strikeout rate in 1997, while Davis' was 27.7 percent in 2007—the two also managed to make it to the major leagues for their first taste of The Show within four months of their 22nd birthday.
Early Years in the Majors
Somewhat surprisingly, given not only their still-developing abilities at the time but also the fact that they were eventually given up on by the teams they broke in with, the two sluggers had some immediate, albeit limited, success in the majors.
In his age-22 season of 1998, Ortiz batted .277/.371/.446 with nine homers and 46 RBI in 86 games as a rookie.
Meanwhile, in his age-22 campaign of 2008, Davis slashed .285/.331/.549 with 17 homers and 55 RBI in 80 games as a rook.
Ortiz would actually go on to be fairly productive for the Twins from 2000 through 2002 (.265/.344/.473), whereas Davis went backward with the Rangers, getting mere dribs and drabs in Texas despite raking in the high minors from 2009 through 2011.
And yet, Ortiz was released by Minnesota following the 2002 season. Davis, on the other hand, was traded for reliever Koji Uehara at the deadline in July 2011.
It wasn't long, though, before the change of scenery worked for each player.
Ortiz, who was deemed expendable—or so the Twins thought—in part because Minnesota's top prospect by the name of Justin Morneau was nearly ready, caught on with the Boston Red Sox early in 2003.
The rest is pretty much history.
Then 27 years old, Ortiz put up the first of five consecutive seasons that earned him a top-five finish in the AL MVP race. He hit .288 with 31 homers and 101 RBI right out of the gate with Boston.
As for Davis, he was stuck behind enough corner infielders, from Mike Napoli to Michael Young to Adrian Beltre to Mitch Moreland, to fill a clown car. As Davis recently said while reminiscing about his time with Texas to Stephen Hawkins of the Associated Press:
That was probably the toughest time for me because I was coming off the bench as a utility guy. I knew I wasn't going to get the chance to play every day and I felt like I was ready for it.
Will Chris Davis do what David Ortiz never has by winning an MVP award during his career?
In his first full year after the Baltimore Orioles acquired him, though, Davis went bonkers just like Ortiz had with the Red Sox. As a 26-year-old last year, Davis smashed 33 homers to go with 85 RBI and a .270 average.
It's also worth pointing out here that in both players' first full seasons with their new teams, they went to the playoffs—a destination the Red Sox hadn't reached in the three years prior to Ortiz's arrival and O's hadn't reached in 14 years prior to Davis'.
Becoming an MVP Candidate
Ortiz has remained an MVP-caliber hitter throughout much of his time with Boston, and he's going as strong as ever in 2013. So far this season, Ortiz is posting a .320/.403/.612 line with 19 homers and 65 RBI.
Obviously, Ortiz is much closer to the end of his career than the beginning. For Davis, the opposite is true, so the comparison can't be fully embraced until we know more about how Davis' future plays out in the years to come.
So far, his second year in Baltimore has been even better than the first, as Davis has an MLB-best 37 homers to go with his .311 average and 93 RBI.
Suffice it to say, if Davis' career turns out anything like Ortiz's has, well, that would be some kind of story of similarities.
Of course, for Davis to keep pace with Ortiz, he's going to have to have a real fairy tale ending this season.
Ortiz, you'll remember, won it all in his second season in Boston.
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