Back in mid-February, the Oakland A’s traded their top catching prospect, Jacob Nottingham, and minor league pitcher Bubba Derby to the Milwaukee Brewers for left fielder Khris Davis. At the time, there were many who questioned the trade for the A’s.
They didn’t have much catching depth at the time and it was believed that Nottingham was going to be the team’s catcher of the future. Davis, on the other hand, was believed to be a decent left fielder without a very powerful arm and was supposedly a bit of a streaky hitter with some power. It seemed like the A’s were going to be on the losing end of the trade.
As it turns out, Davis has been a much-needed addition to the A’s. He was supposed to relieve Coco Crisp from his duties in left field. Crisp is aging and has had neck trouble stemming back to 2014. After missing most of 2015 due to his neck injury, everyone believed Crisp would spend most of the year on the bench.
Instead, Crisp has missed just one game due to neck soreness and has been back in center field with Davis in left and Josh Reddick in right. The A’s expected Billy Burns to be playing in center, but he hit a sophomore slump and was optioned to Triple-A Nashville. Together, the three and fourth outfielder Jake Smolinski have been leading the team, with Davis at the helm.
Davis leads the team in home runs (25), hits (90) and RBI (67). Dating back to last season, Davis has the most multi-homer games in the majors with nine, including a three-homer game in 2016. He ended that three-homer game with a walk-off grand slam — the first of his career — to help the A’s sweep the Texas Rangers in May.
Davis has 25 home runs in 2016, tying him for fourth in the American League and seventh in the majors. He’s also just two home runs shy of his career-high of 27. He’s driven in 67 runs and will also soon eclipse his career high of 69.
After starting off the season in a bit of a slump, striking out more often than not, Davis began hitting consistently and has not stopped. He’s been a tremendous asset to the Athletics. If you still need an indicator of how good he’s been, just look at how he compares to a namesake:
Last 365 days:
Chris Davis: 45 HR, 143 hits, 111 RBI
Khris Davis: 45 HR, 143 hits, 111 RBI
If not for C/K, how would we tell them apart??
— High Heat Stats MLB (@HighHeatStats) July 28, 2016
On the other side of the trade, things haven’t been going quite so well for Nottingham in the Brewers organization. Drafted by the Houston Astros in the sixth round of the 2013 amateur draft, he played very well in their rookie leagues.
Nottingham started regressing a bit when he was traded to the A’s in the Scott Kazmir trade and has regressed further since being traded to the Brewers. He is currently hitting just .236/.300/.333 with seven homers and 26 RBI in 86 games with Double-A Biloxi.
He still has a long way to go in the catching department. Both the A’s and Astros tried to play him at first base during his time with those organizations; however, Nottingham wants to remain behind the plate. It’ll take some work though.
Nottingham does have youth on his side at only 21 years old, but he needs to work on his footwork. He had 19 passed balls in 2015 and his percentage of runners caught stealing (29 percent in 2016) could definitely be better. He could improve, but his offensive regression should definitely be a concern for Milwaukee.
It’s hard to say exactly who “won” this trade when Nottingham is so young and has time to improve, but in the short-term, the Athletics’ got Davis who has solidified himself one of the top, legitimate power hitters in the league.
In each of Davis’ four big league seasons, all the 28-year-old has done is continue to improve his numbers and this season he is going to surpass his career-highs in quite a few categories. If Davis continues to improve, the Athletics’ will only keep looking better in this deal.