I’m back to (hopefully) contribute to your fantasy baseball team’s success by highlighting a player who is under-owned and may contribute in a big way this week. Sounds kind of like Grey’s buy/sell on Fridays, but looking at for one week.
This week, that player is: Chris Davis. Owned in just over 27% of ESPN leagues, he’s due for 6 road games this week. Typically, this would be bad news, since Camden Yards is one of the best parks in baseball for offense. However, three of his road games will be in The House Built Across the Street From the House That Ruth Built, which is the very best park in baseball for power hitting LHB, with a HR park factor of 143 (league average = 100). For non-nerds, if PETCO is a LHB’s nightmare, Yankee Stadium is his fantasy. Davis’ other three games are in HR hostile Fenway, but Boston’s home turf is favorable to offense overall, and Davis hits HR pretty much anywhere – even having played his entire career in very hitter friendly ballparks, his HR/AB ratio is actually slightly better on the road than at home.
Setting aside park factors, Davis squares off against 5 RHP this week. For his career he’s fared well against opposite-handed pitchers, hitting .260 with 36 HR (and 48 2B) in 782 career AB. Kuroda, Hughes, and Nova are the three starters he’ll face, none of whom is particularly tough on LHB, and Hughes is especially vulnerable in Yankee Stadium, allowing 40 HR at home as opposed to only 18 on the road. The two RHP scheduled for Boston against Baltimore are Beckett and Buchholz, who both give up just over 1 HR per 9 innings against lefties. Davis may sit when Baltimore faces Jon Lester, the only starting LHP slated for this week, but if he does play, Davis performs surprisingly well against same-handed pitchers: .238 AVG and 11 HR in 286 career AB. Such a split from Davis against LHP and RHP is almost exactly league average, and better than sluggers like Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, and even Josh Hamilton.
I know your objection. It’s the punch-outs. I’m here to assuage those concerns. Pitchf/x, Fangraphs, and Statcorner all have Davis swinging less frequently at pitches outside the strike zone, more frequently at pitches inside the strike zone, and making more contact overall (especially on pitches in the strike zone). Increased contact rate and better plate discipline is the basis for his improvement in K%, striking out in 25.1% of plate appearances this season, markedly better than his career 31.2% offering. To show just how drastic an improvement this is, taking Davis’ career numbers and inputting his new K% would lop off 70 strikeouts in his 1149 PA. After subtracting walks, running the remaining 66 AB with his career averages would take his career .254 AVG and bump it to .278, which meshes with his .286 AVG this season. His HR total would also climb from 47 to 51. (Note: stats used for article contained games played before 4/28. Davis homered and went 4-5 over the weekend)
How many guys with 3B eligibility can hit .280 and also give you 30 HR in a full season of at-bats? How many of those guys are available in over 70% of ESPN leagues? How many of those guys are on a hot streak? How many of those guys get to play a series in Yankee Stadium this week?
For a one week play at CI or U, or a replacement for Ryan Zimmerman at 3B, take a chance with Chris Davis. At least for this week.