Taken by the Mets with the eighteenth overall pick in the 2008 amateur draft, Ike Davis’s time with the organization has officially come to an end now that he’s been traded to the Pirates. His years in New York were a bit of a rollercoaster ride, to say the least.
The Mets actually picked Davis with a compensatory pick Braves, a pick that Atlanta forfeited under the old system when they signed Tom Glavine back away from the Mets following the 2007 season. Davis debuted as a professional ballplayer with the Brooklyn Cyclones shortly thereafter.
At the age of 21, he struggled with the Cyclones in 239 plate appearances, posting just a .652 OPS with no home runs, 43 strikeouts, and 23 walks. But things changed quickly in 2009, as he opened the year with High-A St. Lucie, skipping right over Single-A Savannah despite the lack of production in Brooklyn the year before. After 255 plate appearances with an .863 OPS and 7 home runs in St. Lucie, Davis was bumped up to the Double-A Binghamton Mets.
He got even better upon his arrival there, hitting .309/.386/.565 with 13 home runs over 233 plate appearances spanning the rest of the season. And when the Mets came out of camp with Mike Jacobs starting at first base in 2010, Davis was sent to Triple-A Buffalo to begin the year. He raked there, too, in just ten games before the Mets got out of their own way and promoted him to take Jacobs’s spot as the team’s starting first baseman.
Ike’s rookie campaign went well enough. He played in 147 games and hit 19 home runs with a .264/351/.440 slash line, .346 wOBA, and 116 wRC+. While those weren’t stellar numbers, they were fairly similar to the numbers that Freddie Freeman posted with the Braves in his rookie season the following year. When Ike hit a home run, it usually traveled a long ways, and he had a knack for catching seemingly uncatchable pop flies near the Mets’ dugout.
Davis opened 2011 on fire and was hitting .302/.383/.543 with a .392 wOBA and 153 wRC+ in 36 games before a freak collision with David Wright on an infield pop up resulted in a season-ending ankle injury.
It’s very unlikely that Davis would have finished the season with numbers nearly as good as those he had at that early stage of the season, but his absence certainly made Mets fans wonder what could have been. There was no saving the 2010 season, but a true breakout campaign from the team’s everyday first baseman would have been a pleasant surprise.
As that 2011 stands, though, expectations for Davis were probably unfairly high as he returned to the field in 2012. That single-season stat line looked awfully impressive.
But in spring training, we learned that Davis was suffering from valley fever. It didn’t force him to miss time, but he had a poor first half that year, posting a .285 wOBA and 80 wRC+. At times during that stretch, it no longer looked like Davis was a major league hitter, but the Mets kept him in the big leagues. He put together a very strong second half, hitting .255/.346/.542 with a .378 wOBA and 142 wRC+. Perhaps the ankle injury had finally fully healed, or he had overcome the effects of valley fever, or maybe everything was just clicking again, as it was at the beginning of the 2011 season.
And then came 2013. He came out of the gate ice cold once again, but he was significantly worse than he had been early in 2012. In total, he had a .232 wOBA and 44 wRC+ in the first half. He spent part of that time in Triple-A Las Vegas. It really didn’t look like Davis would be an effective major league hitter again.
He bounced back again in the second half last year, posting a .413 wOBA and 170 wRC+, but like his excellent numbers in 2011, he did so in just 38 games before an oblique injury ended his season.
With the emergence of Lucas Duda as a very similar player over the last couple of years, Davis was the odd man out, as the team tried to trade him all winter. The last highlight of his Mets career came on April 5, as he hit a walk-off grand slam against the Cincinnati Reds.
It’s not hard to see why the Mets decided to part with Davis, but his story serves as a reminder that even the first-round pick who makes it to the big leagues and finds some success at a young age is no guarantee to be a star. There was a time that the Davis-Freeman comparison didn’t sound too outlandish, but that time came and went. It would be a surprise if it were made again.