Sorry, Upton fans. While B.J.’s overall performance is going the wrong way, Davis’ overall game is trending in the right direction.
It is inarguable that Davis won’t give the Blue Jays much in the way of power (his career-high home run total is five, established last year), but his performance is progressing in most other respects.
He has demonstrated the ability to make consistent contact (84 percent contact rate over the last three years) and, like Ellsbury, he hits lots of ground balls and line drives and then relies on his speed to reach base safely (33 percent hit rate over those same three years).
His batting average in 2009 was boosted by an excellent BABIP (.361) and higher than normal walk rate (6.7 percent), but when his BABIP settled back to a more reasonable number last season (.322), he managed to maintain a solid batting average (.284).
Davis has demonstrated better plate discipline over the last few years, although his walk rate is still lower than it should be for a leadoff hitter. He has lowered his strikeout rate over the last three seasons from 17.7 percent, to 16.2 percent, to 13.9 percent and has shown an increasing willingness to take a walk.
His .305 batting average in 2009 was accompanied his highest walk rate (6.7 percent) since 2007.
For fantasy owners: Davis should be mindful of that last number, and come to grips with the fact that his best overall season was the one in which his walk rate came closest to being a league-average walk rate.
Patience, Rajai. Patience.
Davis will get lots of opportunities to get on base and steal bases atop the Toronto lineup this season. I expect he will be able to sustain a .280+ batting average and steal upwards of 60 bases.
I also expect new Jays manager John Farrell and his staff will tell Davis to take pitches, and that, with increased patience, it’s possible he could hit .300 and steal even more bases.
He will be a nice sleeper candidate in 2011.