Orioles infielder Chris Davis is ready to have that break out year so many scouts believe he can. Entering his fifth big league season, Davis has one of those big, upper-cut power strokes that makes you feel bad for the ball if he connects.
Over his big league career, connecting consistently has been the problem. Davis knows it’s time to step up and in 2012 he’ll have every opportunity to do so. The 25-year-old is expected to be the O’s everyday first baseman.
“The more at-bats I get, the better I’m going to feel. I definitely think this could be the season for the light bulb to come on,” Davis said.
Davis was given the chance to play every day after a strong rookie campaign with the Rangers in 2008. Davis batted .285 with 17 homers and 55 RBIs in 80 games that year.
“When I got called up in 2008 I was really hot. I was locked in, so to speak, at the time and it was just one of those situations where I felt really comfortable at the plate and I was able to make the transition quickly,” said Davis.
But Davis didn’t seize the opportunity. In 2009 and into 2010, Davis struggled to shorten his swing. Though the lefty hit 21 home runs in 2009, he also struck out 150 times in 113 games played. His batting average that year was just .238.
“I had never really run into failure that much and that often. I didn’t really know how to deal with it,” Davis said.
According to sources within the Rangers organization, the decision to trade Davis to Baltimore for Koji Uehara in 2011 was a tough one. Scouts loved his power potential and defensive skills. There was the belief that the light bulb would go off sooner or later for Davis, and when it did, he’d be a force in any team’s lineup.
Now with Baltimore, Davis is determined to make that happen. The left-handed hitter spent the offseason working on drills given to him by Orioles hitting coach Jim Presley.
“Being a predominately right-handed player, I don’t want to say it’s a disadvantage being a left-handed hitter, but I’m not quite as coordinated with my left side as I am with my right. The thing for me is to constantly be working on my top hand. Just my coordination with my left hand and also the strength,” Davis said.
If Davis does break out, he’ll be a nice compliment to fellow corner infielder Mark Reynolds who hit 37 homers for the O’s in 2011.
“Being able to play third and first, that gives us a lot of options with the lineup. Being able to have two guys that hit opposite handed and they’re both power hitters,” Davis said.
Though Davis and Reynolds are interchangeable at the corner infield, manager Buck Showalter made it clear this offseason who would be playing where.
“Buck actually texted me around the first of January and told me he wanted me at first, and just to kind of come in with the mindset of being a first baseman. So it was definitely almost kind of a weight off of my shoulders knowing that I’m a little bit more comfortable at first,” Davis said.
Davis has a career .997 fielding percentage at first. In his limited time spent there for the O’s in 2011 it was obvious the 6-foot-3 230-lb. athlete was pretty agile.
Davis says his slick fielding didn’t come naturally. It was a major emphasis in the Rangers organization.
“I made it a point when I got to the big leagues and was able to work with Dave Anderson and Ron Washington on the defensive side of the ball to really up that side of my game,” said Davis. “It pays off. If you’re having a bad day at the dish and you’ve struck out a couple of times, or you’ve missed some opportunities to drive some runs in you can go out and make a good play and still feel like you’re contributing to the win. That’s something that means a lot to me. That’s something I take a lot of pride in.”
Davis is one of those players who has the tools, but need to put them all together. If that can happen in 2012, the Orioles could have a major power threat in the lineup that right now is flying under the radar.