Going into the 2010 season, Ike Davis was on everyone’s radar, but many felt that he still has some work to do. His numbers in the Minors up until that point were fairly decent- .288/.376/.486 in A+ ball and .309/.386/.565 in AA ball, in 59 and 55 games respectively- but he still had some flaws in his game, most notably his weakness against left-handed pitchers. He was semi-surprisingly called up in 2010, and was very, very good. Very surprising, at the time, to me was his ability to hit left-handers- for the season (122 ABs), he hit 295/.362./443 off of left-handers, walking at a 10.1% rate and stiking out at a 26.1% rate. He hit .264/.351/.440 for the year (.345 wOBA, 115 wRC+), and was worth 3.5 WAR in that rookie season because of his spectacular defense (10.1 UZR). Davis elevated his game in 2011, hitting .302./383/.543 (.391 wOBA, 152 wRC+) to start the season, but was unfortunately sidelined after 36 games because of his ankle injury and subsequent medical bungling by the Mets’ medical staff.
During the hot stove, before the 2012 season began, Davis was diagnosed with Valley Fever, a fungal lung infection known more forebodingly as “Desert rheumatism”. He received the proper treatment, and it luckily did not cut into his playing time. Unfortunately, whether related or not, Davis has gone on to put up the worst numbers in his (admittedly short) professional career*. As of August 16th, when I am writing this, Davis is hitting .213/.280/.418 (.297 wOBA, 87 wRC+) in 418 at-bats. Against left-handers in particular, he is hitting .171/.189/.349, walking at an abhorrent 2.3% rate, and striking out at a 31.1% rate.
Davis’ .237 BABIP don’t help things, but they don’t excuse his poor numbers fully, either. His 11.7% BB rate (2010 +2011) has shrunk to an 8.4% BB rate. His 21.9% K rate (2010 + 2011) has grown to a 25.1% K rate. In the past, he’s hit infield pop-ups at roughly a 7.5% rate. This season, that number has nearly doubled, and is at 13.4%. His Speed Score is also down in 2012. Never particularly fleet on his feet, Davis was rated 2.8 and 2.7 in 2010 and 2011, but has been rated 1.6 so far this season. His 3.3% infield hit rate, down about 50% from 2010 and 2011 (6.5% and 7.1%, respectively) is reflective of this.
Is all of this to mean that Davis sucks and traid, and so on? No, but it is all stuff to keep in mind. In May 2009, Conor Jackson contracted a severe case of Valley Fever- much more severe than what Ike Davis is dealing with- and his baseball career was never the same. Coming off of a 3.2 WAR season, the first round draft pick never again had a productive season, playing only 204 more Major League games and batting .220/.303/.307, as opposed to the .291/.370/.451 slash line he put up in the years before he contracted the fungal infection. Davis seemingly contracted a much less virulent fungal strain, and has been getting treatment (and, note, there is no treatment specifically for Valley Fever, and generic antifungals are used) since before any of the symptoms seemingly manifested themselves in any major way, so the odds of Valley Fever having a severe and lasting impact on his ability to play baseball (and his life) are slim at this point. Like the BABIP, it probably isn’t helping, either.
Next season might be very important for Davis, in regards to determining how integral he is to the future of the organization. If he has a 2013 season more in line with his 2010 and 2011 seasons, a lot of the concerns regarding his play can be ignored. If he has a 2013 season more in line with his 2012 season so far, the thought of replacing Davis has to be brought up and discussed. A future without Ike Davis might be something in the cards. Ignoring the Free Agent market, what options might exist at first base in a world where Ike is not diligently manning it like we’ve become accustomed to?
Down in AAA-Buffalo, Josh Satin is the primary first bagger. The versatile Satin has been holding his own, hitting a very respectable .292/.396/.462 (.386 wOBA, 141 wRC+). It’s hard to imagine Satin having any kind of major role at first base at the MLB level, in an Ikeless future. At age 28, he has failed to draw attention to himself (for whatever reason- I’m not Jeff Paternostro, but all Satin has done in his MiLB career is hit and hit some more), and as a result, I don’t think he’ll ever be seen as more than organizational filler. I mean, Justin Turner has a spot on the Mets, while Satin does not. That says it all, doesn’t it?
Eric Campell & Allan Dykstra
Appearing in 49 games at first base, Eric Campbell is repeating his second full season in AA-Binghamton, and is hitting .298/.398./439 (.385 wOBA, 138 wRC+). This is a big improvement from 2011, when he hit .247/.345/.343 (.322 wOBA, 96 wRC+) over the course of the season. Allan Dykstra has been spotting him, appearing in 31 games at first in AA-Binghamton. Dykstra is hitting .264/.426/.407. 389 wOBA, 140 wRC+), similar to his 2011 there, where he hit .267/.389/.474 (.387 wOBA, 140 wRC+).
Like Satin, it is hard to imagine Campbell and Dykstra as long-term replacements at first base. Campbell hasn’t shown much power in his MiLB career, and his overall numbers don’t shout out to me as someone you absolutely need to get to the Majors because of their bat. Allan Dykstra is similar, though he has a bit more power, and gets on base at a better clip.
Lucas Duda didn’t get much playing time before the Trade Deadline last season, with Carlos Beltran patrolling right field. From April to June, he started a whole 15 games, and his hitting wasn’t particularly impressive. When Carlos Beltran was traded to San Francisco for Zack Wheeler, Lucas Duda got his chance to shine. And, offensively, anyway, shine he did. He hit .300/.383/.529 in July, .319/.382/.527 in August, and .311/.416/.514 in September/October. All in all, he hit .322/.411/.546 during the second half of the 2011 season, and .292./370/.482 (.368 wOBA, 136 wRC+) for the year. His poor defense in right field (-11.8 UZR, and the eyes very much concurred) brought his overall value down (0.9 WAR).
When 2012 began, Duda was penciled in as the starting right fielder, but he lost his job and was eventually demoted back down to AAA to work on his game. In 89 games, he hit .241/.335/.391 (.321 wOBA, 103 wRC+), which isn’t really that atrocious, but when combined with his horrible defense (-18.3 UZR, and the eyes very much agree once again), it made him a player who was below replacement value (-0.8 WAR). In 16 games down in AAA-Buffalo so far, he is hitting .258/.324/.403 (.319 wOBA, 95 wRC+) - not all that much different from his MLB batting line.
Duda’s value is tied to his bat, perhaps more so than anyone else on in the organization. Even factoring in his subpar 2012, he has a .345 wOBA, which is comparable to Josh Reddick (.344), Jayson Werth (.337), and Shin-Soo Choo (.347), among others during the same time span (and similar playing time). His defense severely limits his value. We’ve seen Duda play at first, and he’s not exactly a ballerina there, either, but the move masks his liabilities.
Wilmer Flores is a player who definitely suffers/suffered from Fernando Martinez-syndrome: It feels like he’s been around forever, and because of that coupled with the hype machine manufactured by the team and fans wanting “the next big thing”, run-of-the-mill, pedestrian stats feel like failure. Wilmer made his splash in 2008, when he hit .307/.347/.468 in 68 games split between Kingsport, Brooklyn, and Savannah. As a sixteen year old. Again, to stress: As a sixteen year old. He repeated Low-A ball in Savannah in 2009, and hit a less good .264/.305/.332. In 2010, he split time in Savannah and St. Lucie, and hit 278/.342/.433 and .300/.324/.415, respectively. He repeated High-A ball in St. Lucie in 2011, and hit .269/.309/.380, another down year. So far in 2012, he has hit .289/.336/.463 (.354 wOBA, 119 wRC+) repeating St. Lucie once again, and .297/.343/.434 (.350 wOBA, 114 wRC+) after getting the midseason call-up to AA-Binghamton. In total, in five seasons the Minor Leagues, he’s a .282/.324/.405 hitter. He just became able to drink legally a few days ago (August 6). Coming into the season, he was ranked the Mets’ 17th best prospect by Toby Hyde and the Mets’ 9th best prospect by John Sickels.
Flores’ bat has been up and down, but his biggest problem is that, as “they” say, he is a man without a position. Earlier in his Minor League career, Flores was exclusively a shortstop. Given his deficiencies there, it became apparent that he would not stick there at, so starting this season, he’s been getting auditions all around the diamond- he started 6 games at first, 20 games at second, and 80 games at third. At third base, his defense has gotten generally hushed reviews. Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus says his defense is “not a great athlete, but physical; [an] average at best”, Mark Anderson of Baseball Prospect Nation says he “should be a solid-average defender there long term” because he “can throw from a variety of angles after playing shortstop and maintains accuracy while on the move at third base” and that he “reads the ball well off the bat” and has “very soft hands for a guy his size”. His time at third base is all predicated on a short sample size of 80 games played there this season, so more time may make these projections more or less accurate.
Assuming the best-case scenario, and Flores is able to play a solidly average third base, we suddenly run into a problem in the form of one David Allen Wright (note, I am going on the assumption that Wright’s option for 2013 is picked up, and that he is signed to a contract for the immediate long-term future). Already a proven Major Leaguer, Wright seemingly has rebounded from the problems that plagued him in 2009 to 2011- he is hitting for a high average, he is getting on base at an above average rate, he is hitting for power, his defense is as good as it has ever been. Add to the mix the fact that Wright is the face of the franchise, and Flores sliding in to play third base for the Mets is not a very good bet. And, to make things even harder for Flores, the Mets have a good third baseman ahead of him in the theoretical pecking order, in Zach Lutz. Lutz is often hurt, but when he plays, he is a pretty decent young player- in AAA, where he has been playing for the last three years, he is hitting .299/.392/.506 with so-so, passable defense.
Assuming third base is shut out to Flores in the immediate long term, and the team wants to hold on to him, where does he go? Back to shortstop? Given the fact that he wasn’t particularly good there when he was younger, thinner, and more graceful, his being older, broader, and more filled out isn’t going to help things? Second base? A theoretical possibility, but just like shortstop, he has not shown any particularly adroitness at the position, and his aging is not going to help. The outfield? Flores has a strong arm, and that would help him, but he would be a Lucas Duda clone, and as discussed above, being in the outfield severely diminishes his value because of his poor defense; with Flores, it would be the same (maybe not as bad as Duda, but you get the point). Catcher? A very unconventional, out of left field idea, but I see no reason to think that (A) Flores would excel at catching and (B) that the organization would switch him over to that position to begin with. That leaves first base by process of elimination. Given the relative ease of the first base, defensively, there no reason to believe Flores’ would not take to the position.
A few months ago, Aderlin Rodriguez was on very few radars. His .290/.389/.387 at age 17 in his 2009 season down in the Gulf Coast League and his .312/.352/.556 age 18 season in a half year in Savannah in 2010 seemed like a distant memory. In 2011, over a full season in Savannah, he hit a disheartening .221/.265/.372 (.289 wOBA, 73 wRC+), with poor defense. Going into 2012, he was ranked the Mets’ 15th best prospect by Toby Hyde, and wasn’t even ranked by John Sickels, getting an honorable mention only. Since then, Rodriguez has been a very pleasant surprise.
Aderlin started repeating Low-A Savannah, and hit .274/.336/.497 (.371 wOBA, 124 wRC+) in 83 games. He had a slow start to the year, hitting .200/.266/.370 in April, but turned in to on May and June, hitting .315/.406/.562 and .286/.323/.484. By July, he had been promoted to St. Lucie. While those numbers are good on their own, it is important to note two things: One, he hit those 16 home runs and 21 doubles as a 20-year-old, and two, hitting for power in Savannah isn’t exactly the easiest thing. As pointed out by AA commenter acerimusdux, research done by Dan Szymborski shows that Grayson Stadium, home of the Sand Gnats, suppresses home runs at a 0.73 multiplier (and in terms of total Run Creation, is a .90 multiplier). When the math is done, in 2011, in a home run neutral park, he would have hit 23 home runs in 2011, and for his half season in 2012, he would have hit 21. While the batting average and on-base percentage still would have been roughly the same in 2011 with the added home runs, that kind of prodigious power in Low-A is impressive- even more so when his age is factored in.
He was promoted to High-A St. Lucie, and has hit .230/.287/.460 (.337 wOBA, 108 wRC+) since his promotion. Once more, the batting average and on-base percentage have been problematic for Rodriguez, but the power is still there- he’s hit five doubles and six home runs (including three during a three-day period) in his 100 at-bats with the High-A club. In total, for 2012, he’s hitting a passable .263/.325/.488.
Of all the things that Aderlin Rodriguez is, a defensive specialist is not one of them. Playing primarily third base his entire Minor League career, he has tallied up an impressive number of errors. In 17 games with the GCL Mets in 2009, he committed a mind boggling 12 of them. In 2010, in 58 games with Kingsport, he committed 20 errors. In 2011, in 127 games with Savannah, he committed 44 errors. So far in 2012, he’s committed 18 errors in 70 games with Savannah and 6 in 25 games with St. Lucie. One way to hide Aderlins’ defensive miscues would to put him at a less defensively challenging position. The Mets have begun doing this, with him getting a few reps at 1B. While the results aren’t exactly sterling, and come with a SSS warning (1 error in 8 total games at first in 2012 between Savannah and St. Lucie), it doesn’t take a genius to see that a move is in Aderlin’s future, and 1B is the logical choice, given he is not particularly fleet on his feet (ruling out the outfield).
For fun, I plugged in their numbers into a Major League Equivalency calculator. Most players listed aren't anywhere near ready for MLB action, but why not, I had the window open:
Dykstra: .192/.313/.283 (Binghamton)
Flores: .200/.233/.302 (St. Lucie) / .226/.267/.318 (Binghamton)
Rodriguez: .193/.229/.321 (Savannah) / .180/.210/.326 (St. Lucie)
Lucas Duda: .241/.335/.391 (MLB)
Compare to Davis:
At the end of the day, am I advocating Ike Davis be traded? No. Next season, he could go all crazy on us, hitting .350/.475/.600. He could also have another stinker of a season, though. He could also be abducted by aliens and disappear for the rest of our lives, decide to pull an anti-Jordan and quit baseball in favor of basketball, or any other possible scenario. Likewise, the same things could happen with the other players highlighted and discussed. I’m not really fully sure the point of all of this is, other than I got the idea seed in my head, and put fingers to keyboard to write it all out. But, all that aside, if Davis is unable to recover from whatever malaise has been bedeviling him (or, if his 2010 and 2011 seasons were the aberrations, and this is the true Ike Davis), it does seem that the Mets have a few in-house options that could be intriguing, and possibly even good.
* Note, I started writing this on Thursday, August 16th, at approximately. 7:00 PM. During the game, Ike trolled me with a 2-4 day, with a double, a home run, and a walk (he did strike out twice, though)