COMMENTARY | The Milwaukee Brewers have run into all sorts of issues this season, but their most recent problem might be of the good variety.
Enter Khris Davis. No, not Chris Davis -- although his services would be welcomed with open arms. This Davis is a 25-year-old outfielder drafted in the seventh round of the 2009 MLB draft by the Brewers.
Stashed on the bench after being the final position player to make the opening-day roster, Davis' first stint with Milwaukee wasn't anything to write home about. In his first month with the big league squad, Davis only hit .188 without a round-tripper while receiving just two starts.
Clearly, Davis was struggling to adjust to this level of baseball, and his few and far between at-bats weren't helping the matter. A demotion to Triple-A Nashville, where Davis hit .310 with 4 HRs and 24 RBIs in 32 games last season, was the correct and logical move -- Davis was blocked by Ryan Braun and Norichika Aoki, and simply wasn't performing.
After nearly 2 1/2 months, Davis returned to the parent club but once again in a limited role. Davis might as well have not unpacked his bags -- three days later he was sent right back to Nashville.
But a week later, the Brewers were dealt a significant blow when Ryan Braun was suspended for the remainder of 2013 due to performance-enhancing drug use. Back came Davis, but with Caleb Gindl playing well, there still wasn't a spot for Davis in Milwaukee's starting outfield.
Almost inexplicably, Gindl was told to take his .282 average with him back to Nashville on Aug. 13, opening up left field for Davis. The Brewers had seen what they needed to see with Gindl and wanted to give Davis a fair crack, as both Gindl and Logan Schafer had received opportunities to play every day.
Now it was Davis' turn.
We saw it with Gindl, we saw it last season with Carlos Gomez, and, now, we're seeing it with Khris Davis. Provided with the security of knowing their name is going to be penciled into the starting nine, it's done wonders for their confidence and overall performance.
Since Davis became the everyday left fielder for the Brewers, he's been on an absolute tear. In the month of August, Davis has a .333/.400/.700 split with 3 HRs and 8 RBIs. On the season, Davis is slugging a ridiculous .678, helping to push is OPS to an also ridiculous 1.051.
Before we award Davis the MVP Award, these numbers do have to be taken with a grain of salt. It's a small sample size, as Davis doesn't even have 70 plate appearances this season, and his defense is a liability. Like Gindl, he's undersized, and Davis doesn't possess much of a throwing arm, which is a concern as right fielders are expected to have the strongest throwing arm in the outfield. Davis has also been prone to the strikeout in his rookie campaign.
Yes, Davis is currently playing in left, but that's due to Braun's suspension, and Braun is owed over $100 million while under contract through 2020. The most logical outfield position to be up for grabs next is right field, as Aoki is only under team control through 2014. That is, unless Milwaukee decides to trade Braun, which is a discussion for another time.
The issue for Davis is that there's plenty of competition in the outfield. There's also the return of Braun in 2014, and at least one more year of Aoki. And while Schafer has struggled at the plate this season, he is a far superior defender. Gindl won't go quietly, either.
As far as looking further down the road, prospects like Tyrone Taylor (Low-A Wisconsin), Victor Roache (Wisconsin) and Mitch Haniger (High-A Brevard County) are all a few years away from arriving in Milwaukee -- if they arrive at all.
Davis might not feature the most reliable glove, but he's been making up for it with his big bat. If he continues to utilize his power and hit for average, the Brewers won't be able to keep his bat out the lineup -- this season, anyway.
Considering the stocked outfield to be in 2014, Davis will have to learn to handle a limited role save a sudden position change. By 2015, there might be an opportunity for Davis, who will then be 27, to earn a starting job, but the competition will be fierce.
Plenty could still happen -- trades, contract extensions, etc. -- but for Davis to be the right fielder of the future in Milwaukee, a lot has to fall his way, and that includes the baseball in the bleachers. Stay tuned for the remainder of the 2013 season, as Davis will be one of several young players to get a shot with the Brewers, and how they perform should help to shape the 2014 opening-day roster.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.
You can get the discussion going and follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_.
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