The next Chris Davis?
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis may have a doppleganger in the NL Central and no, it's not Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Khris Davis.

Davis may have a name in common with the Milwaukee left fielder, but he's more similar to Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez.

If Alvarez continues on the same path as Davis, he could be this year's breakout star.

After tearing up the minors, both players had similar rookie years -- Davis hit .285 with 17 home runs and an .880 OPS in 2008 and Alvarez batted .256 with a .788 OPS and 16 home runs in 2010 -- and looked to be future studs.

However, both traversed through similar valleys due to a propensity to strike out.

From 2009-2010, Davis hit .238 with a .695 OPS, 27 home runs and 253 strikeouts in 765 plate appearances and Alvarez batted .228 with 34 homers, a .715 OPS and 260 strikeouts over 848 plate appearances in 2011-12.

It all came together for Davis in 2012, as he hit .270 with 33 homers, 85 RBI and an .827 OPS in 562 plate appearances, while Alvarez launched 36 bombs, drove in 100 runs and hit .233 with a .770 OPS over 614 plate appearances last season.

The next step for Alvarez is duplicating the 53 home runs, 138 RBI, .286 average and 1.004 OPS Davis produced last season. And based on how strikingly similar Davis' 2012 season and Alvarez' 2013 season were, Alvarez may not be that far off from those heights.

Check it out.

Strikeout rate

Davis 2012 - 30.1 percent

Alvarez 2013 - 30.3 percent

Walk rate

Davis 2012 - 6.6 percent

Alvarez 2013 - 7.8 percent

Flyball rate

Davis 2012 - 37.5 percent

Alvarez 2013 - 36.4 percent

Home-run-per-flyball rate (HR/FB)

Davis 2012 - 25.2 percent

Alvarez 2013 - 26.3 percent

Chase rate

Davis 2012 - 39.8 percent

Alvarez 2013 - 35.2 percent

Zone contact rate

Davis 2012 - 82.5 percent

Alvarez 2013 - 78.9 percent

So what did Davis do to go from a good power hitter in 2012 to a Mark McGwire- esque slugger in 2013?

He didn't erase the strikeouts from his game, that's for sure. Davis still whiffed 199 times and had a .296 strikeout percentage last season.

But he did become more patient, lowering his chase rate to 35.7 percent. As a result, his walk rate skyrocketed to 10.7 percent. With more of his total contact coming on pitches in the strike zone rather than out of it, Davis was able to raise his flyball rate to 45.7 percent and his HR/FB to 29.6 percent.

As the numbers above show, Alvarez already chases the ball out of the zone less often than Davis did in 2012.

Alvarez' power has been on an upward trajectory the last two seasons, as he raised his average batted-ball distance from 307 feet in 2012 to 311 feet in 2013 and his HR/FB from 25 percent to 26.3 in that same timeframe, according to fangraphs.com. At age 27, those numbers should at least remain steady and actually have a strong chance of improving again.

He also was a victim of some bad luck last season, hitting .276 on balls in play. Davis batted .336 on balls in play and the major league average was .297. If Alvarez hit .297 on balls in play last season, his average would have been .246 instead of .233.

The two factors that could prevent Alvarez from putting up Davis-like numbers are his performance against left-handed pitching and PNC Park's offense- suffocating tendencies.

Davis wasn't fantastic against lefties in 2013, hitting .235 with 13 home runs and a .764 OPS, but compared to Alvarez he was Tony Gwynn. The Pirates third baseman hit just .180 with three homers and a .537 OPS against southpaws in 2013 and has a career .200 average against them.

Alvarez also batted just .199 with 16 home runs at his home ballpark, while Davis took advantage of Oriole Park at Camden Yards' favorable dimensions to hit .307 with 28 homers.

Struggles against lefties and at home aside, the key for Alvarez to bridge the gap between his and Davis' 2013 stats is hitting more flyballs.

If he can get his flyball rate to the 41-43 percent range, he'll easily knock 40-45 balls out of the park, PNC notwithstanding.

Based on his high floor and massive power potential, Alvarez is a nice pick at his current ADP of 85.1 in yahoo.com leagues.

Even if he doesn't become Chris Davis circa 2013, he should at least be a top-10 option at third base again.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.

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