2020 Rebound Candidate: Khris Davis

Khris Davis
OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 29: Khris Davis #2 of the Oakland Athletics hits a two-run homer against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the bottom of the six inning of a Major League Baseball game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on March 29, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

The 2019 season was the worst season in the career of Khris Davis. The Oakland Athletics, A’s fans across the globe, and fantasy baseball players everywhere are all asking the same question: Will there be a 2020 Khris Davis rebound? Will Davis go back to bashing bombs, or will he end up as a league-average letdown? The short answer is probably yes. There is some real potential for a 2020 Khris Davis rebound, and he seems likely to be back to bashing bombs out of the Oakland Coliseum, and everywhere else he plays.

Prior to the 2019 Season

Khris Davis had to be feeling better than ever coming into the 2019 season. He was coming off of the best year of his career in which he slashed .247/.326/.549, had an OPS of .875. He also hit a baseball-leading 48 HR and he was still in his prime, at 31.  Davis has been, arguably, the most consistent player in baseball, hitting exactly .247 for four consecutive seasons. A major point to be made here is that while his batting average remained a constant .247 from 2015-2018, his HR and OPS totals improved every single season. He batted .247 with 27 bombs and an OPS of .828 in 2015. In ’16, the same .247, but he hit 42 home runs and had an OPS of .831. Davis continued to bat .247, but with 43 round-trippers and an OPS of .864 in ’17.

Davis’ 2018 numbers show that model of consistency with a batting average of .247, 48 long-balls, and an OPS of .875, as mentioned. His RBI and Runs scored also went up year-over-year (’15, 66/54; ’16, 102/85; ’17, 110/91, ’18, 123/98). 2018 was the best year of his career, to be sure, but that could be said after every year since his first full season in the bigs in 2014. The batting average is league-average, but those production numbers are star-caliber. Oakland loves Khris Davis, and Khris Davis loves Oakland—So much so, that knowing that they are a small-market team, Khrush, as he is known to most was willing to forgo a lot more money to play for another club in order to stay in Oakland.

The 2019 Season

Khris Davis proved his love for Oakland In the third week of the 2019 MLB season by signing a rather light contract extension for 2 years and $33.5M. That makes it an annual value of $16.75M. His 2019 contract was for $16.5M, which means that he only got a raise of $25k over his current contract. His contract extension was actually less than the 2019 qualifying offer of $17.8M—an excellent deal for Oakland. Khrush was more than happy—even gracious to settle for it since he is a low-key kind of guy. One might think that after signing that extension Khrush would hit his usual .247 and increase his production—as was the norm.

“Well, I know he’s going to bat .247,” Billy Beane joked after the signing. It seemed like it was certainly heading that way because Khrush was already leading the majors at that point with 10 homers. That is not what happened, unfortunately. In fact, the worst-case scenario happened: Khrush fizzled out shortly after that ending the year with his worst ever stats: .220/.293/.387 with 23 HR and an OPS of a measly .680. Davis went from powerhouse to Mendoza Line. So why did this happen and can Khrush turn this thing around and be productive in 2020?

The Problem

The same question has been asked by a lot of people around the sport. It has been said that several problems led to his decline or “steep and sudden fall from grace.” The stated problems have been decreased average exit velocity, lowered launch angle, reduced fly ball rate, and opposite field power. That is more like a list of symptoms and it leaves out the cause of the problem completely. It has been said that Davis likely dealt with nagging consequences of oblique and hand injuries to be fair. An oblique injury in May and he was hit in the hand by a pitch in June. The causation event that explains the problem is still not present. So, what happened?

Davis was slashing .229/.303/.481 with 10 bombs leading up to a May 5th near full-speed crash into the wall in left at PNC Park, while making a pretty good catch. He hit .217/.289/.351 with a measly 13 homers from May 5th through the end of the season. This is a very important factor because it is pretty obvious that injury caused the decline. Did the hip injury sustained in the collision cause the problem on its own? Probably not. But when you add the fact that he was only able to play in 133 games in 2019 to the picture you can see it was a major problem. Power comes from your hips. The combination of hip, oblique, and hand injuries explain it. It hurt to swing the bat. Khrush is a warrior and he tried to play through the pain but the results had to weigh on him psychologically as well–compounding the problem.

2020 Khris Davis Rebound

Therefore, this anomaly makes a rebound seem almost certain. Krush came into Spring Training this year fully healthy and he was just starting to make consistent solid contact before the shutdown. You can likely expect Krush to be back to bashing if and when the 2020 season gets going. You will likely see a full 2020 Khris Davis Rebound and perhaps an increase in production (relative to season length). If you are into fantasy baseball draft him cheap or in a later round but draft him.

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Michael Gray is a graduate of UCLA with major studies in philosophy and minor studies in finance. He did his graduate studies at CSU in San Bernardino, California for his MBA. Michael was a standout athlete from early in his childhood, through his college football days. He played baseball from ages 6-18, and 3 varsity sports in high school: Football, in which he was awarded a full-ride scholarship; Wrestling, where he was the CiF Heavyweight Champion, and two events on the Track & Field team in which he was league champion, and remains in the record books to this day. Professionally, Michael continued his success in his 10 year Management Career, before settling in as Executive Vice-President/Private Equity Fund Manager at a West LA Commercial Investment firm. Michael still manages a small private fund through his own company, and works with Seniors in a nonprofit organization that he co-founded, but he now spends a lot of his time watching, reading, and writing about baseball--his first love.

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