30 Questions: Mets


Is Ike Davis ready to give fantasy owners a thrilling sophomore season?

Last season was a good one in terms of National League East rookies, producing three of the top seven vote getters for the Rookie of the Year Award: Jason Heyward, Gaby Sanchez and Ike Davis.

A quick look at the 2010 statistics for each of the trio shows very similar numbers across the board.

So why is there such a disparity in when these players are being drafted in 2011? The ADP (average draft position) from ESPN's Live Draft Results show Heyward typically being selected in Round 5, Sanchez in Round 18 and Davis -- who isn't even being taken in 100 percent of drafts -- in Round 22.

Something just doesn't add up, especially when you consider that Davis' supporting cast was the weakest of the bunch. The New York Mets finished well behind both the Atlanta Braves and Florida Marlins in batting average, home runs, runs scored and slugging percentage, but should have Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay back in the everyday lineup. Presumably, this can only help the team's offensive performance and, by extension, Davis' numbers.

Davis' 2010 season was, from a historical standpoint, fairly impressive. Since 1970, only seven first basemen have managed a season with at least 15 home runs and 70 RBIs in their debut year in the majors. (Sanchez had cups of coffee in both 2008 and 2009, which is why he does not make the cut here.) Here's the list:

It's not as if these home runs were low line drives that barely cleared the wall, either. Of the 30 major league stadiums, Citi Field was the 27th most difficult in which to hit a home run, according to ESPN's Park Factor page. Yet, according to HitTrackerOnline.com, Davis hit six home runs of more than 430 feet at home, and 15 of his 19 overall blasts were of the 400-foot-plus variety.

Davis' power potential has not gone unnoticed by his peers, either, as Chipper Jones recently told the New York Daily News that he didn't think he'd ever seen a guy with that much pop. "If he connects, the ball will hit the Grand Canyon," he said.

It's also not that the left-handed-hitting Davis is thriving in a platoon situation and thriving by going up against only right-handed pitching either, as evidenced by his .295 batting average versus southpaws. Compare that to Jason Heyward's far inferior .249 batting average facing lefties, and you have to wonder why the optimism for Davis' growth is not as strong as it is for Heyward.

The two are more alike than you might think. Since 1901, there have been only 15 left-handed-hitting rookies with at least 500 at-bats, 15 home runs and a slugging percentage of at least .440. Davis and Heyward are the latest members of that group, which includes Bill White, Earl Averill, Eddie Mathews and Ted Williams.

Don't get me wrong. I get that because Heyward plays outfield, a position where you have to draft five guys in a starting lineup, as opposed to first base, where one man may suffice, he has a lot more fantasy value than Davis if the two put up similar statistics. But having said that, Davis is still, after only one season, well on his way to becoming the best first baseman in Mets history. And the enormous upside has got to count for something more than mere "bench spot" consideration.

Finally, let's compare Davis' rookie campaign to that of another first baseman from years gone by:

Here's what this mystery player's manager had to say about him heading into his second year in the major leagues. He said he loves the way he handles the pressure and the media and the high expectations, adding that "He will win a Gold Glove, too."

That manager was Roger Craig, and he was talking about Will "The Thrill" Clark before the 1987 season. Not only did Clark go on to win that Gold Glove before his career was done, but he also finished in the top five in MVP voting in four of the five seasons after he received such lofty praise.

So what does new Mets manager Terry Collins think of his young star in the making? Collins has said that he not only thinks he's going to be impervious to the sophomore jinx but also told the New York Times that "[Davis] is going to be one of the premier first basemen in baseball."

Hey, maybe it's a lot to ask of the kid to carry his team to the playoffs in 2011. Maybe expecting 35 home runs is a little too optimistic. Still, that doesn't mean there's not a lot to like about Ike. Davis should reward his fantasy owners with plenty of thrills for the next six months, and in the process, he'll more than make back his draft value.

Enjoy the ride!

AJ Mass is a fantasy baseball, football and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. His book, "How Fantasy Sports Explains the World" will be released in August. You can e-mail him here.