The Situation: Injuries to Homer Bailey and Anthony DeSclafani left two openings in the Reds starting rotation to start the season. Rookie Davis seized the opportunity, and he’s in line to make his first major league start on Thursday.
Background: Davis was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 14th round of the 2011 MLB Draft. He spent 2012-2015 in New York’s farm system ascending as high as Double A. Davis’ 2015 was viewed as a breakout for the big right-hander. In 19 starts for High-A Tampa, he went 6-6 with a 3.70 ERA. Davis struck out 9.71 batters per nine during that stretch. By the end of 2015, he was in Double A.
Prior to the 2016 season, the Yankees shipped Davis to Cincinnati (along with Caleb Cotham, Eric Jagielo and Tony Renda) for Aroldis Champan. Davis spent most of last season at Double A, but he did get the call to Triple A in August. He threw 125 innings with a 3.82 ERA between both levels, but his strikeout totals fell off (5.5 SO9). Some of that could be attributed to a groin injury. Davis’ five starts in Triple A were particularly underwhelming. He surrendered at least four earned runs in three of those starts.
Scouting Report: The first thing that jumps out about Davis is his size. He’s listed at 6’5, 255, and can be an imposing presence on the mound. His fastball sits in the low to mid 90s, and this spring he’s been clocked hitting 96 mph. The velocity comes easy out of his hand, and he commands the pitch well. Brendan Gawlowski highlighted in his “Notes from the Field” that Davis employs a solid 12-5 curveball that can miss bats. Davis also uses a changeup, but that pitch has been described as “below average.”
It was clear to Davis that something was going to have to change in his repertoire if he wanted to reach the majors. Zach Buchanan recently detailed Davis’ work to incorporate a slider into his pitch mix. He debuted the offering on March 1, and Davis is hopeful it might be the missing piece to his game. He did strikeout 17 batters in 15.2 innings this spring which is a positive sign, considering he struggled at times to miss enough bats in the upper minors.
Immediate Big-League Future: Davis should be in line for consistent starts early in the season. However, there’s no shortage of arms waiting in the bullpen and minors (Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed and Sal Romano to name a few) who could be given an opportunity if Davis struggles. Even if he pitches well there’s the chance he could return to Triple A if/when Homer Bailey and Anthony DeSclafani return to the rotation. Davis has been projected as a back of the rotation starter, and this will be a great opportunity for him to audition for that role.
Fantasy Impact: For now, Davis’ fantasy impact is limited. Mike Gianella noted in his latest “Expert FAAB Review” that Davis received no attention from the market this week. It’s unlikely he’ll be in line to accumulate many wins given his team. If the strikeout numbers do come up, he could provide something of value in that category. There’s also the chance his WHIP could be of interest given his command. However, there are simply too many question marks at this point to invest in Davis for fantasy purposes.
The best course of action would be to observe Davis for a few starts, then pursue him if it looks like he’s taken that next step forward.
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