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The Red Report - Rookie Davis

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Can the centerpiece of the Aroldis Chapman trade stick in the rotation in 2017?

Cincinnati Reds Photo Day Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Fast Facts

Position: Pitcher
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Height: 6’5” Weight: 255 lbs.

William Theron Davis was born April 29, 1993 in Sneads Ferry, NC. If you squint hard enough, you can see where the combination of “William Theron” comes out as “Rookie”, which he has apparently been going by since the day he was born. He played his high school ball at Dixon High School in Holly Ridge, NC. He was originally committed to continue his baseball career at East Carolina University, but instead signed with the New York Yankees when they drafted him in the 14th round of the 2011 draft.

Davis spent 4 seasons in the Yankees’ farm system, progressively getting better each year. While he never really posted a great ERA, he always had high strikeout rates that hovered around 8 K/9 with low walk rates that stayed around 2 BB/9. His best year came in 2015, where he put up a 3.70 ERA in 97.1 innings in High-A Tampa, striking out 9.7 per 9, walking 1.7 per 9, and had a 5.83 K/BB ratio. That was good enough to earn him a short stint in Double-A Trenton to finish out the season. He then came over to the Reds in the much-criticized Aroldis Chapman trade prior to the 2016 season.

Davis struggled in his first season in the Reds organization. While he still got batters out and posted his best ERA since 2013 (2.94), his strikeout rate dropped and he was struggling with his velocity. He did earn a short call-up to Triple-A Louisville at the end of the season where he fared even worse, getting rocked for a 7.50 ERA in 24 IP.

Organizational Information

Drafted by the New York Yankees in the 14th round of the 2011 MLB June Amateur Draft from Dixon HS (Holly Ridge, NC)

Transactions

December 28, 2015: Traded by the New York Yankees with Caleb Cotham, Eric Jagielo, and Tony Renda for Aroldis Chapman.

Career Stats

Scouting Report

No charts this time, since there is very limited Pitch F/X data, but here are a couple scouting reports on Rookie Davis:

  • Here is what Brooks Baseball has to say about his pitching repertoire.
  • Here’s Doug Gray at Reds Minor Leagues on what we should expect this season out of Rookie Davis.
  • Lastly, here is John Sickels over at Minor League Ball after Davis made the opening day roster.

2017 Projections

Source G GS IP ERA FIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
Source G GS IP ERA FIP WHIP K/9 BB/9 fWAR
Depth Chart 19 19 114 5.08 5.09 1.44 6.28 3.07 0.5
Steamer 19 19 115 4.91 4.96 1.44 6.28 3.15 0.6
ZiPS 25 25 123.3 5.25 5.21 1.44 6.28 2.99 0.3

Outlook

With his performance in 2016 combined with the negative stigma surrounding the trade that brought him here, not to mention competition with the higher-ranked prospects of Cody Reed and Robert Stephenson, Rookie Davis seemed to be an long-shot to make the rotation out of Spring Training. However, a different version of the pitcher we saw last year showed up in Goodyear in February. The velocity struggles, which were explained by a groin issue that hampered his ability to push off on his pitches, were gone as he was sitting at 94-95 mph on his fastball. He also started throwing a slider this spring, which gave him a third option for an out-pitch that he was lacking in the minors.

For the time being, Rookie Davis has earned his spot in the rotation. He makes his major league debut on Thursday against the Phillies so it will be interesting to see how he does in his first true test against major league hitters. The real question going forward is how long he will stay in the rotation. Is he going to be a short-term innings eater who is just buying time for the return of Homer Bailey and Anthony DeSclafani in two moths (or as early as Saturday when Bronson Arroyo makes his return)? Or has his ability to command the strike zone impressed Bryan Price and the Reds enough to rely on him over the likes of Reed and Stephenson for most of the season?

Even if he doesn’t stick with the rotation in the short term, his early resurgence gives the Reds yet another young option in their pitching staff. And regardless of what the Reds decide to know, it’s going to be really interesting to see how things shake out for not only Davis, but for the rest of the rotation over the next few months.