Today we take a look back at the Mets player who, perhaps, draws the most debate and (at times) ire among Mets fans: First baseman Ike Davis. In 2012, Ike got off to a dismal start, hitting .158/.234/.273 through June 8th. From that point forward, he was one of the National League’s most dominant hitters, posting a .265/.347/.565 line over his last 100 games with 27 home runs, a pace of 44 homers over a full season.
Ike’s play down the stretch led to a raise to $3.1M (in his first year of arbitration) and encouragement that he could, once again, be the middle-of-the-order force Mets fans had dreamed of when he entered the league in 2010. The Mets would need him to be; the fewer holes they need to fill in 2014 the better.
How he fared in 2013:
Well, Ike got off to pretty much the same issues as in 2012. Over pretty much the same sample (through June 9th), Ike hit .161/.242/.250 with the same 5 home runs and strikeout issues. Unlike last season, however, he was then dispatched to AAA Las Vegas to regain confidence in his swing. His defense, while not alarming, featured a handful of inexcusable lapses to go along with usually consistent play. He got off to a fast start in Vegas, hitting safely in 10 of his first 13 games for the 51′s and slugging five home runs in a span of four games (which fueled his PCL Player of the Week award).
Davis ultimately hit .293/.424/.667 in Vegas with 14 of his 22 hits going for extra bases. More encouraging, though, was his improved plate discipline. His strikeout rate prior to his demotion had been a Rick Ankiel-esque 31.9%; in Vegas it was down to 19.6%. The walk rate doubled from 9.2% to 18.5%. This encouragment led the Mets to recall Davis on the fifth of July to meet them in Milwaukee.
Ike’s first game back was encouraging, but not terribly so – he went 3-5 with a walk and 2 RBI, but all three hits were singles. Such was the pattern the next week and a half, as he hit .192 with no extra base hits, but posted a solid .344 OBP with six walks and seven strikeouts in 32 plate appearances. True to form, he turned it on in the second half. He hit .278 through the rest of July, with five extra base hits (4 2B, 1 HR) and got on base at a great .409 clip. Though the 11 strikeouts (25%) were a little more than what the Mets would hope, he was beginning to hit for power again and not sacrificing his plate discipline.
August would be a great month for Davis, as he hit .290/.468/.522 with 24 walks against only 17 strikeouts. The home run power hadn’t been there (3 HR in 94 PA), but a .232 ISO would be more than sufficient against such excellent plate discipline. Unfortunately for Ike, his season would end in the third inning of an August 31st game against Washington, as he strained his oblique on a long sacrifice fly.
Areas to Improve Upon:
Offensively, Ike needs to get better out of the gate. In 2013, he was great after his return, hitting .267/.429/.443 and showing excellent plate discipline. For the second consecutive season, though, he was an offensive liability in April and May. The splits are, well dire. Looking at the past two seasons:
Opening Day Through End of May – .266/.236/.274, 9HR, 8.1% BB, 30.9% K (356 PA)
June 1st Through End of Season – .252/.362/.503, 32 HR, 14.7% BB, 21.8% K (605 PA)
With the team starving for offense and financial resources perhaps limited, “good” Ike would be a huge lift. An OPS around .860 and 30+ home run power would be great out of first base and in the cleanup spot in the lineup.
Projected Role in 2014:
Ike Davis’ status in 2014 is about as up in the air as anything right now. Were I a betting man though, I’d wager that he’s still the opening day first baseman. The team has said openly that they’re unwilling to non-tender Davis and let him walk without compensation, and they still seem optimistic toward his potential, compared to Lucas Duda who is likely viewed as a higher-floor-but-lower-ceiling guy.
Davis’ struggles should lead to him not getting much of a raise above his $3.1M 2013 salary; and at that price is still a reasonably inexpensive option. With Josh Satin as a likely short-half of a first-base platoon, Davis’ struggles against left-handed pitching aren’t as big a cause for concern. Because of his options, the Mets would be able to stash Lucas Duda in AAA Las Vegas to start next year as an insurance policy should Davis struggle again early next year.
Contract Status and Trade Rumors:
The common thought is that the Mets will try to trade one of Lucas Duda and Ike Davis this offseason, and that is certainly possible as it’s unlikely both can play regularly in Queens. Both players are eligible for arbitration and will likely receive offers to prevent the loss of a potential trade piece.
As I said above, Ike’s struggles will not prevent him from receiving an offer. The Mets see his potential, and don’t want to lose it without receiving something in return. The team will likely offer him a contract at or near his $3.1M 2013 salary.