Khris Davis is back to hitting dingers, folks.
The right-handed slugger, who is trying to make a comeback to Oakland, bashed a two-run shot to dead center in Thursday night’s game for the Las Vegas Aviators.
It marked his second dinger in six contests since being placed on the AAA roster last week.
KD with another dinger 👀 pic.twitter.com/XFYxarNnFm
— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) August 20, 2021
The A’s signed Davis to a low-to-no-risk, minor league deal on Aug. 4 after he was designated for assignment by the Texas Rangers on June 8. Since then, he’s gone 8-for-23 and slashed .348/.375/.652 with two homers, six RBI, no walks and five strikeouts in six AAA games.
I think the A’s front office is at least kicking around the idea of bringing back Davis, who mashed 158 dingers in five seasons with the A’s, before being shipped to the Texas Rangers as part of the Elvis Andrus deal this past offseason.
Davis started 2021 on the injured list after pulling his hamstring trying to leg out a bunt as a cleanup hitter in a March 23 spring training game. He made his Rangers debut on May 8, slashing .157/.262/.333 with two homers, five RBI, eight walks and 16 strikeouts in 22 games and made two starts in left field.
But he was unemployed for nearly two months before the A’s picked him and started him off in the Arizona Complex League. The Aviators play in a notoriously hitter’s friendly league in the AAA West, but you can’t ask for much of a better start from Davis in Las Vegas.
Ultimately, he may fall victim to a numbers game, but I think Davis has a shot at getting one of the two extra roster spots that will be added on Sept. 1.
There are a couple of things working against Davis, however. First of all, he’s not on the A’s 40-man roster, so they would have to DFA someone just to get him on the 40-man.
Let’s survey the possible candidates.
I don’t think they want to DFA either of their extra catchers — Aramis Garcia or Austin Allen — or infielder Vimael Machin. Luis Barrera is probably safer than Skye Bolt when it comes to the minor league outfielders on the 40-man.
Starters Paul Blackburn, Daulton Jefferies and Grant Holmes are all probably safe. Other players on the 40-man roster, mostly for Rule 5 draft protection, include intriguing prospect Wandisson Charles. Charles is a hard-throwing 24-year-old who is out for the year with an undisclosed injury. Perhaps the A’s consider DFA’ing 27-year-old Miguel Romero, who is struggling with a 7.08 ERA but had solid numbers in 2019.
Then there’s Adam Kolarek — remember him?
The soft-throwing, 32-year-old southpaw posted a 0.95 ERA in 20 games with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2020 but got knocked around to a 8.00 ERA and 2.22 WHIP in 12 games with the A’s to start this year before his demotion to Las Vegas. The numbers aren’t much better in 27 games with the Aviators, as Kolarek has a 7.76 ERA, 1.86 WHIP and a 15-to-15 K-to-BB ratio.
Fellow 40-man southpaw Sam Moll has the upper hand on Kolarek. Moll has a 94 mph fastball and much more digestible numbers in 2021 — 4.40 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 37-to-18 K-to-BB ratio in 28.2 innings. Moll hasn’t allowed a run in seven appearances with the Aviators since the A’s acquired him for cash considerations from the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 2. Moll also made three scoreless appearances with Oakland in July.
If Davis were to be added to the 40-man roster and promoted to Oakland, I expect Kolarek would be DFA’d. Romero and Bolt might be on the chopping block, too, but Kolarek is a bit redundant now with the addition of Moll and emergence of A.J. Puk, who has tossed 7.1 scoreless innings in five appearances with the A’s while throwing 98 mph with a new delivery.
Chad Pinder is also playing in Las Vegas on a rehab assignment and his return is imminent. I’m expecting Seth Brown to be sent back down to AAA briefly when Pinder is reinstated, but that Brown will be back in Oakland when rosters expand on Sept. 1.
That leaves one more roster spot on the 28-man. Who does it go to?
A third catcher? Machin? A long man like Jefferies/Blackburn? Moll? Davis? You can make an argument for each of them, but it will likely come down to the team’s needs.
Davis played in a couple of games in left field this season but has exclusively played designated hitter for the Aviators. I would expect the A’s would use him solely as a DH or pinch-hitter. Davis’ lack of defensive versatility/ability is hurting him, but if he can show he’s still a threat to hit a dinger every time he’s at the plate, that’s hard not to add to the team. Ramon Laureano’s season-long suspension also means one less body and one less right-handed hitter in Oakland, if KD fans want a silver lining.
All this to say — I still don’t know what the future holds for Davis. I don’t know if the A’s do.
But if he keeps hitting dingers — say three or four more by Sept. 1 with a .300 average — I don’t know how you keep him in AAA. I’m not a scout or anything, but here’s my overreaction from that 30-second home run highlight: Davis looks limber and not as stiff as he was the last time he was with the A’s.
I believe the A’s have expendable players on their 40-man roster, but getting Davis in the door before another bullpen arm on the 28-man roster is another deal. Pinder makes Machin a bit more redundant, the A’s have southpaw depth in the bullpen (Andrew Chafin/Jake Diekman/Puk), and the A’s catchers are chugging along just fine, so don’t be surprised if Davis is back in the green and gold on Sept. 1.
My final guess: Yes. KD will be back in Oakland at some point this season. If not on Sept. 1, perhaps a future injury will open a spot. KD is knocking at the door.
His teammates and manager Bob Melvin would love having him back, and I can only imagine the reaction Davis would get if he hit a dinger at the Coliseum. It would be a very A’s story, wouldn’t it?