Baseball is considered a team sport since it's rare for a single player to be the direct cause of a team's overall success. But with every rule, there's an exception. For the 2014 Eugene Emeralds, Marcus Davis may be that exception.
In his second year with the Ems since being selected by the San Diego Padres in the 2013 Draft, the 24th-round pick is surging at the plate. Having played in 31 of the team's 33 games through July 16, Davis is hitting .355 (38-for-107) with a team-high seven homers and 21 RBIs.
The 22-year-old leads the entire league with a .645 slugging percentage, his homer total is tied for first, and he ranks in the top five in batting average, doubles (10), on-base percentage (.461) and walks (19).
"Just a lot of work on setting up an approach and sticking to it," Davis said of the key to his offensive success in 2014. "Our hitting coach, Homer [Bush], and Damion Easley, who is down in Arizona, they really worked with me to make sure I get the pitch that I want and am ready for it."
Davis has been especially hot lately. Taking on the Boise Hawks in a three-game series from July 4-6, he went 7-for-11 with two homers, three doubles, four RBIs and four runs scored. He was 3-for-4 just two nights later, launching a three-run homer and reaching base four times in an 8-6 win over the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.
This breakout performance couldn't have come at a better time for Davis, who struggled to adjust to the professional level in 2013. Playing in 35 games for the Emeralds last summer, Davis managed 18 hits in 102 at-bats (.176), failed to homer and notched just three doubles and eight RBIs.
"Last year I was kind of trying to prove myself, and I think I got into a situation where I was trying to do too much," Davis said. "This year I'm just getting back to the basics -- I'm really working on trying to dominate the fastball early in the count but also being able to stay balanced and handle off-speed pitches."
As important as this offensive production has been to Davis' attempt to get his professional baseball career back on track, it's also been important to the Eugene Emeralds. It took the Ems 28 games to notch their 10th win in 2013. This year, it took them only 21 contests to accomplish that feat.
"It's definitely a change of pace this year from what it was last year. I think we have a good mix of guys, and the coaching staff is great," Davis said. "Just the fact that we're out here trying to get better, trying to win games and doing it the right way is going to help us in the long run."
Davis' numbers are also helping contribute to a power-happy Eugene lineup. Through July 16, the Emeralds were second in the Northwest League in home runs (24), tied for second in doubles (62) and third in slugging (.368).
"Offensively, he's right in the middle of everything that goes on," said first-year Eugene manager Robbie Wine. "As long as we get a couple of guys at the top of the order getting on base, we're going to be OK.
"He brings a calming influence to our offense, and he's disciplined at the plate. He'll take whatever the pitcher gives him, and over time it spreads to the rest of the lineup."
Cardiac craters: It's still the first half of the season, but Salem-Keizer has already found a knack for playing close games. Entering play July 16, the Volcanoes have been a part of 14 games decided by just one run, including Wednesday's 1-0 win over Everett, and eight others decided by two runs. Salem-Keizer (16-17) has also notched four walk-off wins this season.
Mr. Consistency: After starting slowly in 2014, Boise outfielder Jeffrey Baez is on quite a roll at the plate, and the Northwest League is taking notice. Baez is in the midst of a 17-game hitting streak, recording a hit in every game he's played dating back to June 27. Over the course of his streak, Baez has raised his batting average from .164 to .278 and produced seven multi-hit performances.
Offensive force: With only six games remaining in the first half of the Northwest League season, the Spokane Indians (22-11) sit atop the eight-team circuit, and the Indians' offense is a major reason why. Spokane is the owner of the top three hitters in the league: Seth Spivey (.377), Eduard Pinto (.366 and Luke Tendler (.364). As a team, the Indians lead the league in doubles (63) and rank second in hits (315) and RBIs (174).
Sky's the limit: Since being transferred to Salem-Keizer on July 4, Skyler Ewing has compiled 14 RBIs in 11 games, good for second on the active roster. The 2014 sixth-round selection out of Rice University drove in four runs in his Volcanoes debut, three of which came on a homer in the fifth inning against the Hillsboro Hops. On the season, Ewing is hitting .368 (14-for-38) with two home runs since joining the club from the Arizona League.
"He came in firing right away," Volcanoes manager Gary Davenport said. "He's done everything and more than what we've expected. Hopefully, he can just stay on the pace that he's on right now."