By JOHN PESETSKI Special to FOXSportsWisconsin.com
PHOENIX — Six weeks ago, outfielder Khris Davis may have been the only person at the Milwaukee Brewers Maryvale spring training complex who thought he had a chance to make the team’s Opening Day major league roster. But thanks to an incredible spring power surge, Davis, with less than a week left before the team breaks camp, now has a good chance to make it to Milwaukee for the April 1 start of the season.
Chosen out of Cal State Fullerton by the Brewers in the sixth round of the 2009 draft, Davis has slugged his way into consideration for a final roster spot. Hitting at a .333 clip, he leads the team in every spring training batting category including home runs (six), RBI (14), OBP (.375), OPS (1.131) and runs (10). The only offensive category he doesn’t lead the team in is stolen bases.
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“When camp started, Milwaukee seemed so far away,” Davis said. “It’s closer now but still seems out there. But I don’t have any control. It’s the club’s decision. I’m just going to go out there and play the best I can.”
“He’s getting a lot of at-bats and he’s taking advantage of them,” catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. “He’s playing great. I think he’s impressed a lot of guys around here.”
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke recognized early in camp what the team had in the 5-foot-11 200-pound Davis.
“He can hit,” Roenicke said. “Everybody knows that. He’s proven that. He’s hit everywhere he’s been. That’s been his history.”
During an injury-shortened 2012, Davis hit .350 with 15 home runs and 52 RBI in just 82 games spent in rookie ball, Double-A Huntsville and Triple-A Nashville. In 2011, he a was Florida State League All-Star while hitting .309 with 15 home runs and 68 RBI in 90 games for Brevard County before being promoted. In 2010, his first full minor league season, Davis hit .280 with 22 homer uns and 72 RBIs for Class-A Wisconsin while being named to the midseason and postseason Midwest League All-Star teams.
Less surprised than most by Davis’ production this are some of his minor league teammates.
“The guy hit the ball a long ways in Nashville last year,” said pitcher Donovan Hand, whose putting together an impressive spring training of his own. “He can swing it. He’s got power to all fields. He hit a ball over the batter’s eye in center at Nashville last year. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of our guys do that. Khris made it look easy.”
“He’s got unbelievable power,” said 2012 Nashville teammate and fellow outfielder Caleb Gindel. “When you look at him at first, you don’t expect it. But then it doesn’t take long to see what he can do.”
Davis is clearly enjoying the success he’s had this spring.
“It’s been incredible. I’m having a good time,” said the right-handed hitting 25-year-old. “Some of the veterans started calling me Swag a few weeks ago. They say I’ve got the most swagger in the clubhouse. I don’t know about that, but coming from those guys, it’s been a lot of fun. Rickie Weeks has taken me under his wing. Go-Go (Carlos Gomez), Mike Gonzalez, Cory Hart … they’ve all been great.”
Still, factors other than his bat, many outside of his control, will likely determine whether Davis makes the Brewers’ Opening Day roster.
“His (Davis) chances are pretty good,” Roenicke said. “He’s a guy that has made us definitely consider him. If the role fits, if what he does, which is a left fielder, right-handed hitter, fits in with the five bench guys we’re going to carry, he could be there. We have to have some flexibility with those guys and what they can do according to what everybody else can do.”
Roenicke conceded that catcher Martin Maldonado and outfielder Logan Schafer are locks for two of those five bench slots. He also suggested that a backup infielder would be one of those five players. Injuries to utility players including Taylor Green, Jeff Bianchi have complicated matters. Veteran non-roster invitee Donnie Murphy is also in the mix for one the bench spots.
Two factors are working against Davis’ chances of making it to Milwaukee. Defensively limited, he can really only play left field. Additionally, there is some concern whether his production can continue in a sporadic role.
“When you’re asking Davis to come off the bench, I have no idea if he can hit off the bench,” Roenicke said. “He can hit when you’re playing him and he’s getting a lot of at-bats. But, if he’s not doing that, can he hit? To answer that for a young guy … nobody has an answer for that.”
In the meantime, Davis plans to do what has gotten him to this point.
“I’m just going to keep hitting,” he said. “That’s what I do. Hitting is easy. Well, like most things, it’s as easy as you want to make it. It’s the best part of the game, and for me, it’s easy.”