Is Ike Davis the next Ryan Braun?

Jesse G writes:
Hello Toby,
Found something interesting today and wanted to get your take:
Take a look at Ryan Braun’s 2006 Minor League season and Ike Davis’ 2009 Minor League season.  For both players this was their age 22 season.  The similarities are crazy, both in production and games played per level.  If you take out the position played and which side of the batters box they stand in they’re almost identical, maybe with Davis having the slight edge in OPS and Braun adding very good stolen base numbers.  Also, Braun played in the Southern League at AA while Davis played in the Eastern League, but I couldn’t begin to tell you how that effects the results, if at all.  I came across this while trying to find a good player to compare to Davis’ development.  Is there anything to this projection wise?  Braun did have a much stronger history in the MiLB before 2006 than Davis had before 2009 and Davis has some stark Lefty/Righty splits.  I didn’t factor in Davis’ AFL numbers because I did not know whether Braun had played in the AFL that year, but considering Davis’ Fall League production it doesn’t hurt.  Otherwise I don’t see why this wouldn’t be something to get just a little excited about.  I’m not saying Davis is going to be Ryan Braun but it’s a pretty good point of comparison.
A+ 59 222 17 3 7 28 108 31 52 0 2 .288 .376 .486 .863
AA 55 207 14 0 13 43 117 26 60 0 0 .309 .386 .565 .951
Total 114 429 31 3 20 71 225 57 112 0 2 .298 .381 .524 .906
A+ 59 226 12 2 7 37 99 23 54 14 4 .274 .346 .438 .784
AA 59 231 19 1 15 40 136 21 46 12 0 .303 .367 .589 .956
Total 118 457 31 3 22 77 235 44 100 26 4 .289 .357 .514 .871

Jesse, that’s really interesting stuff you have there.

– Braun followed up his big ’06 by starring in the PCL for the first 33 games of the season in ’07 where he hit .333/.403/.675 with 12 2B, 9 HR with 13 BB against 11 K.  I saw him repeatedly in his month + in the PCL and he was easily the best hitter in the league.  He was actually the best hitter in the league all year, in a decent year for PCL prospects with Geovany Soto, Hunter Pence and Adam Jones, for example.  Note his absolute complete command of the strike zone with more walks than strikeouts and his ridiculous power with 21 XBH in 33 games.  His low strikeout numbers in the PCL are fairly aberrant among his career totals both in the big leagues and minor leagues.  In the majors, he’s owned K rates between 19 and 25%, while his minor league numbers were similar to Davis, which you can see in the chart below.

– In 2009, the Eastern League hit .258/.332/.385 as a whole while the Southern League hit a nearly identical .255/.332/.380.  Of course, Braun played in the SL in 2006, but lets basically call it a wash as the overall offensive levels appear very similar.  Both hitters’ AA home parks, Huntsville and Binghamton, play largely fair.

– And yes, Ryan Braun did play in the AFL following his 2006 season.  Like Ike, he raked in the league:

Braun ’06 AFL 25 92 .326 .396 .641 9 1 6 11 23
Davis ’09 AFL 21 85 .341 .394 .565 7 0 4 8 23

Braun hit for a little bit more power (16 XBH to Ike’s 11), walked a little more, and struck out a little less.  Over fewer than 100 AB is the difference real?  Barely.

– Lets keep digging deeper to see if the two players are as similar as their counting stats suggest:

Davis 09 – A+ 59 222 12.2 20.4 10.6 .348
Braun 06 – A+ 59 226 8.8 20.8 8.1 .325
Davis 09 – AA 55 207 11.2 25.8 11.6 .381
Bruan 06 – AA 59 231 8.2 17.9 13.6 .324
Davis 09- AFL 21 85 8.5 24.5 11.7 .424
Braun 06 – AFL 25 92 10.4 21.7 15.1 .381

During their age-22 regular seasons, Davis walked more than Braun.  In AA and the AFL, Davis whiffed more than Braun.  Note that Davis’s production relied on very high BABIPs, which were between 23 and 57 points higher than Braun’s in each league and will be unsustainable moving forward.  For what it’s worth, Braun’s MLB BABIPs have bounced around, but been strong, going .367, .308 and then .355 in his 2.75 MLB seasons.

– The stolen base difference you point out is key.  It indicates simply that Braun is faster and more athletic than Davis at the same age.

– How about defense? Remember that Braun was attempting to play third base at this point.  He was awful at third (-23 UZR in only 111 G) so the Brewers moved him to left field where he’s been comfortably below average, but not embarrassing (-17.6 over two years).  Davis, should be at least average with a chance to be plus at first.

Basically, your comparison of Davis to Braun is an absolute best case scenario for the Mets and their fans.

I don’t think Davis will be able to equal Braun’s offensive production in the big leagues because Braun’s swing is a cleaner and his power is a little more natural.  On the other hand, Davis has shown more patience in the minors, so while I expect him to hit for a lower average, he should get on base plenty.  Also, Davis’ potential defensive edge could help narrow the gap.

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