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Brewers Trade Assets: Khris Davis

The slugging outfielder has become a polarizing player with the fanbase and with plenty of prospects coming up through the system, Khrush could find himself with a new home for 2016.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Brewers selected outfielder Khris Davis of Cal State-Fullerton in the seventh round (226th overall) of the 2009 MLB Draft. Khris was never rated very highly as a prospect; his best ranking according to Baseball America was 16th in the Brewers system following the 2012 season, but that didn't stop him from annihilating minor league pitching. He slashed .285/.389/.501 with 69 home runs across 421 games before making his major league debut in 2013.

Ryan Braun's 2013 season was ended prematurely by his 65 game suspension in connection to Biogenesis in July, which allowed Davis to take over as the club's everyday left fielder. He responded by hitting a robust .279/.353/.596 with 11 home runs in just 153 plate appearances, good enough for a wRC+ of 158. His tremendous audition was enough to convince then-GM Doug Melvin to trade Nori Aoki and shift Braun over to right field in order to create an everyday spot in the lineup for the player who became known as "Khrush."

2014 was KD's first full season in the major leagues, and with a 22 home run, 106 wRC+ showing he established himself as a legitimate power threat and above-average producer at the plate. He followed that up with an excellent offensive campaign in 2015, hitting .247/.323/.505 with 27 home runs (121 wRC+) despite missing more than a month of the season with a torn meniscus and playing in just 121 games.

Unfortunately for Khrush, he's become quite the polarizing player despite his terrific offensive production. He regularly catches flack for his low batting averages (.250 career) and high strikeout rates (24.3% career). A quick Twitter search for "Khris Davis arm" reveals comparisons to a "noodle," an "eighth grader," and a "squirt gun;" fans commonly refer to it as the "worst arm in the league."

However, simply labeling Khrush Davis by what his flaws overlooks how well he compensates for those shortcomings in other ways. First and foremost is his incredible power, as home runs are inherently more valuable than singles. He's a legitimate 25+ home run threat no matter what lineup he's a part of. Though his strikeout rates will always limit his batting average, this is due more to Davis' patience at the plate than an undisciplined approach. KD walked at an excellent 10% rate last season, which helped boost his OBP to an above-average .323.

His poor arm limits him to left field, yes, but Davis is also a great athlete and a good route runner. That's helped him to put up roughly league average marks of -3 UZR and 5.4 Fielding Runs Above Average across nearly 2,300 major league innings in left. He'll never be a plus defender, but with those marks one can hardly call him a liability in the outfield.

Barring an unforseen breakout heading into his age 28 season, it's probably safe to say that Davis has reached his ceiling as a 2-3 WAR player. That comes out to be about a league-average starter in left field. While being "average" generally comes with negative connotations, being an average starter in the MLB is certainly nothing to shake your head at. Overall, he's hit .250/.315/.494 (119 wRC+) with 60 home runs in 321 games and has accrued 4.1 fWAR, which averages out to about 2 fWAR per 162 games.

Since he made his big league debut at the relatively old age of 25, Davis has accrued just 2.104 years of MLB service time. He fell 26 days short of qualifying for arbitration as a Super Two player, and can therefore be controlled for one more season around the league minimum before becoming arb-eligible next winter. Davis has another four years of club control and cannot become a free agent until after the 2019 season, at which time he'll be heading into his age 32 season.

Given his age and the rebuilding Brewers' crowded outfield picture, it's conceivable that the club could shop Davis as a trade candidate this winter in spite of his several remaining seasons of club control. In a vacuum, Davis should probably be worth a 50 grade prospect plus one or two secondary prospects who are perhaps lower rated, but have some untapped upside. There should be no shortage of clubs that could use an upgrade at left field/designated hitter this winter, either. Speculatively, Seattle, Anaheim, Houston, Kansas City and Toronto could all be seen as potential fits for Khrush.

Unfortunately, the Brewers are stocked with outfielders at the same time that the free agent market is brimming with them. This will probably make it difficult for new GM David "Slingin' Stearns" and the Brewers to get fair value for their left fielder on the trade market, as most clubs would probably prefer to simply give out money to plug a hole at this point rather than pay for one in prospect currency. I'd conjecture, then, that Davis will begin 2016 in a Brewers' uniform and continue patrolling left field, with Braun in right and Santana as a stop-gap in center field. Craig Counsell has said that he'll be writing KD's name in the lineup everday, and that it will definitely be in the outfield (previous attempts to move him to 1B have reportedly failed).

That doesn't mean that Davis will be the club's long-term solution in left field, however, and he should continue to hold his value as long as he keeps producing at the plate. Davis could be a logical trade candidate at the 2016 trade deadline or the following offseason, when the market figures to be a little less crowded. With another four years of club control, there's no need to rush to trade Khris Davis for anything less than what Stearns deems is fair value.