With Opening Day just over three weeks away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2015 Orioles every day as they try to defend their American League East title this season.
1B Chris Davis
Opening Day age: 29
Contract status: Becomes a free agent after the 2015 season
Minor-league options remaining: None
2014 stats: .196/.300/.404, 26 HR, 72 RBI, 65 R, 2 SB, 525 PA
Why to be impressed: Despite an awful campaign in which he hit only .196, Davis remained a patient hitter, drawing walks in 11.8 percent of his plate appearances compared to 10.7 percent a year earlier. His 26 homers still ranked third on the club despite Davis only playing 127 games.
Why to be concerned: Davis admitted this winter that the oblique injury he suffered last April lingered all year, but no player in baseball was a bigger victim of the shift as Davis saw it in 95.2 percent of his plate appearances and sported a .121 average on grounders and short liners against the shift compared to a .333 mark with no shift, per The Bill James Handbook. Davis was abysmal against off-speed pitching in 2014, but it’s fair to wonder if that was a byproduct of the injury and trying to cheat against fastballs after he feasted on off-speed pitching in 2013 and handled it adequately in 2012.
2015 outlook: His .242 batting average on balls in play from a year ago suggests he experienced plenty of bad luck as he owns a career .320 BAbip, but the shift isn’t going away and Davis has worked on his bunting down the third baseline this winter as a result. In the same way that his career 2013 season was an outlier, Davis shouldn’t be defined by his nightmarish 2014 that included a 25-game suspension for Adderall. A return to his 2012 numbers seems reasonable if he’s healthy, but it’d be very tough for him to match that .270 average with the shift becoming a fixture in baseball for the foreseeable future. If his power to the opposite field returns with his health, Davis should be able to approach the 35-homer mark.