The Curse of First-Round Expectations

I was recently dumbfounded, flummoxed, flabbergasted, and all other redundant terms for something like “incredulous” when I read a New York Mets Blog’s suggestion that the team should simply cut Ike Davis.

This is a player who is one season removed from hitting 32 home runs, has hit a HR once every 25 career plate appearances, will be 27 this season, and has a lifetime .768 OPS. That is not somebody a team should throw away because he had one bad year.

The Mets are reportedly trying to trade Davis and the Pirates are a possible partner – along with Milwaukee and Baltimore. There have also been reports that the Mets are seeking a young starting pitcher in return – somebody on the order of the Brewers Tyler Thornburg or Pirate farmhand Nick Kingham. Mets management obviously still believes Davis has significant value. But their fans are fully exasperated with him.

I believe the Mets fans’ are mistaken. And that their reason for giving up on Davis is almost completely the result of the high (and probably unrealistic) expectations that are placed upon first-round draft picks.

Davis was taken by the Mets with the 18th pick of the first round of the 2008 draft – the same year that Pedro Alvarez was selected by the Pirates. And I think many Pirate fans made the same mistake as Mets fans did with Davis. They expected Alvarez to burst upon the major leagues and hit .300/.400/.500 within two years of being drafted. And when he struggled, fans were quick to utter the word, “bust.”

Ike Davis and Pedro Alvarez will probably never post a season-long .900 OPS. But they have both been very productive major league hitters and should continue to be so for the next few seasons.

Davis career .768 OPS was the National League average for 1B in 2013. Alvarez’s career .749 OPS is 21 points above average for NL 3B.

Yes, one should hope for great things from a player drafted in the first-round – especially one taken with the second overall pick, as was Alvarez. But a major league average – or slightly above average – career is not a bad result when a team is drafting a 21-year-old who has never played at even the lowest levels of the minor leagues.

There aren’t many major league average baseball players in this world. Teams cannot afford to throw one away after one bad season. But  . . .

If the Mets mistakenly believe that they can . . . the Pirates should immediately offer Davis a 2-year, $10 million contract.

**** LINKS:

Post on Ike Davis age-27 comparables

2014 Projection for Ike Davis ( and other 1B) vs. Right-handed Pitchers


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