Ike Davis has had a very unusual pro career.
As Kevin notes elsewhere, Davis was regarded as a bust after a dreadful 2008 season. A first-round pick in 2007, Davis hit for a true average of just .246 in his pro debut season – and that is without translating. The Tav for the league is always .260, so he was a below average hitter for his league, even though he was a 21-year-old, college-seasoned hitter playing in short-season A ball. Translated, his TAv was just .168.
Since then, he's hit like a legitimate prospect. Untranslated, he hit for a TAv of .306 at St Lucie last year, went to .327 in AA, and added a .295 in the AFL. This year has been even better – .450 in spring training, and .389 in Buffalo. Those translate to .249, .283, .273, ~.350, and .360.
There are 123 players in our database who made the junp from short-season A ball to the majors in two years, including current players like Nolan Reimold, Matt LaPorta, Travis Snider, and Everth Cabrera. Most of them did exceptionally well in their debut – they averaged a .350 untranslated TAv during their short-season stay, putting them in prime position for rapid advancement. Many also had just 30 or so PA, like Evan Longoria, who had just 38 PA (and a .465 TAv) in the New York-Penn before being promoted to the California League. Julio Borbon only hit .145 in the 2007 Northwest League, but also had just 31 PA.
The combination of a low (under .270) TAv and at least 150 plate appearances reduces our list to just 10 players, counting Mr. Davis.
- Mike Caruso, then of the Giants, had a .267 TAv in the 1996 Northwest League in 328 PA. A shortstop, he opened the '97 season at San Jose (high A) and hit a very respectable .288 (trans .259) before becoming part of the infamous "White Flag" trade of 1997; finishing the year in Winston-Salem, he hit just .194 (from here on, unless I say otherwise, these numbers are untranslated TAvs). However, he made the Sox out of spring training in 1998, played a full season at short, finished third in Rookie of the Year balloting, and hit for a respectable .253 TAv. It was the high water mark of his career; he would never reach a .200 mark in the majors, or a .240 mark in the minors, ever again.
- Chris Turner was a 22-yo catcher in the 1991 NYP, hitting .258 over 194 PA. He hit 310 for the Quad-Cities in '92, was promoted to AAA in '93 and hit .276 there, earning a late-season callup. From 1993 to 2000, he split every season between a major league team (Angels, Royals, Indians, Yankees) and their AAA affiliate, with translated TAvs consistently around .230.
- Ryan Rohlinger was a 22-yo third baseman, drafted in the sixth round in 2006 and assigned to Salem in the Northwest league. He got in 264 PA and hit just .256, and then, he hit only .260 in the South Atlantic League in 2007. He hit .289 in high-A ball the next year, was promoted mid-season to AA and hit .307, and earned a brief call to the majors. An excellent fielder, he's currently working on a move to shortstop at Fresno.
- Jerry Gil played at South Bend, in a full-season league, in 2001, but after he hit just .196, he was sent back down to the Northwest League for 2002 and hit just .245. He had a reputation as a defensive wizard as short and was still only 19, which explains why he wasn't simply cut; Gil made his way back to South Bend in '02 and then jumped to Tucson in '03, hitting .239 and .238. Called up in late August, he was the Dbacks' primary shortstop to finish the season and struck out 33 times in 86 atbats with no walks – not surprising for a player who averaged a 160:18 K:BB ratio per 650 PA. He hurt his knee the next spring and hasn't seen the majors since; he converted to a pitcher a couple of years ago and is currently working in Chattanooga. He's walked 94 batters in 120 minor league innings, 15 more walks than he earned in over 2750 plate appearances.
- Todd Hundley was a 19-yo catcher in 1988 and hit .208 for the NY-Penn Little Falls Mets. When he hit .293 in the Sally League the next year, he was on the fast track to the majors, skipping high-A to play in AA the next year, getting a call to the majors, and then, he spent another year in AAA before making the majors for good. Hundley enjoyed a 14-year major league career, capped by a 1996 season when he had a .302 TAv, 101 TR, and 41 home runs (and caught 150 games).
- Fred Manrique was, it is said, just 17 when he hit .262 as a shortstop in the 1979 Appalachian League. He wasn't impressive in raw terms (.258 in high-A Kinston, .241 in AA Knoxville) over the next two years, but he did get a brief look-see during the 1981 season. He spent most of the next five years in AAA before breaking through as a semi-regular with the White Sox in 1987.
- Gil Reyes was, allegedly, a 17-yo catcher for Lethbridge in 1981, a Dodger farm in the Pioneer League. He hit .259 for them, but only .198 when called up to Vero Beach, but Reyes bounced back to hit .268 in the California League the next year. In 1983, despite hitting just .208 at AA San Antonio and .239 at AAA Albuquerque, he managed to get a 30 at-bat trial with the big club. His translated minor league numbers typically ran about .215, and he hit just .191 in the majors, another player promoted on his defensive merits.
- In 1993, Freddy Garcia was a third-baseman for Toronto's Medicine Hat affiliate, hitting an anemic .242 TAv in the Pioneer league. The Jays only moved him to the short-season NY-Penn league in 1994, where he hit .308 – leading the league with 13 HR. This encouraged the Pirates to take him in the Rule 5 draft, where he pretty much wasted his 1995 season on the bench, and had to go back to the Carolina League in 1996.
- Angel Salazar was another perceived defensive whiz, a shortstop who zoomed from the 1981 Pioneer league to the 1983 Expos without ever hitting as much as .250 anywhere along the way. He garnered 932 plate appearances in his big league career, earning a .166 TAv. Bill Bergen is the only non-pitcher who has a lower TAv (.100) and more career PA than Angel Salazar.