Who is Ike Davis? Well, being literal, he's a first baseman from Edina, Minnesota who grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona, and has played for the New York Mets since 2010. More allegorically, Ike Davis has been a mystery during his four seasons in New York.
After an incredibly promising rookie year in which Davis set several of the club's rookie records, Ike was poised to become the Mets' first baseman of the future in 2011. After a strong start to the season, Davis missed most of the season with an ankle injury, and that's when the curious case of Ike Davis truly began.
In 2012, Davis began the year the year poorly after suffering from what was rumored to be Valley Fever for most of spring training. He dipped below the Mendoza Line and would stay there for much of the season before hitting a hot streak in June which lifted his numbers to respectable levels. Despite the terrible start to 2012, Davis still hit 32 home runs and had the fifth-best fielding percentage in the National League.
The 2013 season began with much of the same from Davis, as he hit .160 in April and .165 in May. Despite delivering a big hit to help defeat the rival Yankees, Davis had an otherwise terrible start to June, and with only five home runs to his credit, the decision was made to mercifully send him down to Triple-A.
While in Vegas, Davis swatted seven home runs and hit .293/.424/.667. Sandy Alderson apparently saw it fit to recall Ike after only 21 games in the minors, and he returned during a mid-season series in Milwaukee.
The second half of the season was, of course, a typical part of the Ike Davis narrative. Davis played in 45 games for the Mets after coming back. In that time, he compiled a .267 batting average with a 152 wRC+, while hitting four home runs. Davis had seven multi-hit games in that span as well while maintaining a .334 BABIP. As usual, however, Davis succumbed to injury just as he seemed to be getting hot. With a strained oblique on August 31, Davis was decommissioned for the rest of the 2013 season.
So that begs the original question, is Ike Davis a 30-home-run hitter who can get on base and play solid defense, or is he a guy who will struggle to bat .200 and let his defense suffer because of it? It seems hard to say right now where Ike stands. Taking a look at his career slash line of .242/.334/.434, Ike gets on base and slugs better than the average MLB first baseman, who hit .263/.323/.387, but if he continues to play first halves like he has been, then those career numbers will continue to trend downward. One thing that Davis did well this season was draw walks, which he did in 15.2% of his plate appearances compared to 11.0% for all big league first basemen.
The other problem with Davis of late is his defense. Davis was once considered an above average defensive first baseman, but recently he has managed to not only fail the eye test, but his zone statistics were poor as well. He posted a -8.5 UZR this year, just shortly removed from two excellent defensive seasons in 2010 and 2011.
So where will Ike Davis be in 2014? At this point, it seems more likely every day that he won't be on the Mets. Should the Mets choose to keep him, it seems that it may be his last stand in New York since Sandy Alderson's patience appears to be growing thin. While Davis has shown the potential to be a top-tier first baseman, he will turn 27 in March and even if Alderson doesn't turn the clock forward, Davis may be running out of time himself between his age and arbitration-eligible status.
Desired 2014 Role: "Good Ike Davis" — a 30-home-run hitter, who plays plus defense and gets on base.
Projected 2014 Role: A trade candidate, but if he's on the Mets a 15-20 home run hitter with league average defense and a .250 batting average.