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Fantasy Baseball: Chris Davis Or Edwin Encarnacion?

Each week leading up to the regular season I will compare two players that are ranked close together that people will debate taking in drafts. I will take suggestions on player comparisons if you tweet me @adamronis. This week I’ll examine two first basemen with Chris Davis and Edwin Encarnacion. Davis has an Average Draft Position (ADP) of 7.4 in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) and Encarnacion has an ADP of 18.52.

The case for Davis: Davis is coming off a career year and returned tremendous value for Fantasy owners in 2013. He batted .286 with 103 runs, 53 home runs, 138 RBIs, four stolen bases, an isolated power of .348 and a 1.004 OPS. Most people don’t expect Davis to repeat and he likely won’t.

Davis had a career year. Still, the power is legit. He displayed power throughout his minor league career and when he came to the Rangers in 2008, he hit 17 home runs in 295 at-bats. Davis hit 21 home runs in 391 at-bats the next season and batted .192 in 120 at-bats with the Rangers in 2010, spending most of the season at Triple-A. Davis struggled in 2011 and was traded to the Orioles, where he has thrived with his new team. In 2012, Davis batted .270 with 75 runs, 33 home runs, and 85 RBI with a .827 OPS.

The naysayers will point to Davis’ high strikeout rate; he has a career mark of 30.6 percent. Davis still has a career .266 average with such a high rate of swings and misses. Davis improved his walk percentage to 10.7 percent last season, too. Davis hit 42 doubles last season and tends to hit the ball hard with a 22.9 percent career line drive rate. Davis also struggled during the second half last season, batting .245 with 16 home runs and a .854 OPS in 65 second-half games.

The case for Encarnacion: As I always say incessantly, know your league rules and scoring. Encarnacion played 10 games at third base last season and in some leagues he may be eligible there, which boosts his value. Encarnacion, like Davis, benefited from a change of scenery. Encarnacion flashed power with the Reds, including a 26 homer season in 2008. Poor defense and injuries were issues while with the Reds, who traded him to the Blue Jays in 2009.

In 2010, Encarnacion missed time with injury and was sent to Triple-A, though he played 96 games with the Blue Jays and hit 21 home runs. Encarnacion was solid in 2011, batting .272 with 17 home runs and 55 RBI in 134 games. The breakout came in 2012 when he played a career-high 151 games. The shift to the American League helped move Encarnacion to first base and designated hitter and it likely played a factor, as he didn’t need to worry about being a liability on defense at third base.

Encarnacion batted .280 with 93 runs, 42 home runs, 110 RBI, 13 stolen bases and a .941 OPS in 2012. He followed it up with another excellent year in 2013, batting .272 with 90 runs, 36 home runs, 104 RBI, seven stolen bases and a .904 OPS in 142 games. His season ended early and he had wrist surgery in September. There have been no updates on his progress, but reports post- surgery were he would be ready for spring training.

Encarnacion makes excellent contact for a power hitter. He struck out just 10 percent of the time and had a walk rate of at least 13 percent for the second straight season. He turned 31 in January and has 78 home runs the last two seasons, 100 RBIs in both and even adds some stolen bases.

Verdict: Both players are great sources of power. Encarnacion is the safer bet for a higher average, he’ll have a few more stolen bases. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Encarnacion had more home runs and even if he loses that category to Davis, it won’t be by a wide margin. Encarnacion has 78 home runs the last two seasons compared to 86 for Davis. I’ll take Encarnacion.

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