When Baseball America released their mid-season prospect rankings in July, 5 players of the top 50 were in the Rays organization. With the year winding down, and September call-ups commenced, they recently extorted from their bevy of minor league talent and called up the 16th ranked Wade Davis.
He was pitching pretty well in AAA this year, racking up 158.2 innings with a 3.83 FIP; and at 24 years old in his second season at AAA, there wasn’t much development left for him. With the Rays playoff hopes dwindling, it would appear the he is auditioning for a role in the starting rotation next year.
In his first start against the Tigers, he sure did a great job of lobbying for that spot. He threw 7 innings, allowing just 1 run on 3 hits. He also struck out 9 hitters while walking just 1, and he threw nearly 65% of his pitches for strikes.
Let’s check out his stuff:
As you can see, he threw a lot of fastballs, with the majority of them being of the 4 Seam variety, with an exceptional amount of “rise”. He also mixed in a couple of sinkers. His curve was reported to be his go to pitch in the minors, and it’s easy to say why. He got nearly 10 inches of vertical break on some of them, while also getting some good sweeping action. Using Dave Allen’s method of calculating “Total Break” on curveballs (detailed in the comments section), we can see that the curve he displayed today would be in the upper echelon in terms of expected value, at least in regards to movement. Location, sequencing and velocity are obviously other factors as well. His slider looks to be a good pitch also, with nice tight breaking movement and good velocity.
Anyway, with him throwing a lot of those “rising” fastballs, we can expect that he pitched up in the zone. Let’s take a look at his location chart, with the swinging strikes indicated:
As you can see, he did work up in the strike zone zone with all of his pitches and rarely went below the strike zone. Despite that, his stuff was very effective tonight, especially his fastball. He got 11 swinging strikes out of 77 fastballs that he threw yesterday. When you consider that the league average swinging strike rate for fastballs is roughly 3.5%, the fact that Davis was able to register over 14% is awfully impressive.
Considering his straight fastball, and his apparent disposition to working up the strike zone, you would expect him to be an extreme fly ball pitcher. However, looking at his batted ball data from Minor League Splits doesn’t support that hypothesis, as over 45% balls in play over his career have been on the ground. It seems that he simply was just not locating his pitches well tonight, or he has a weird ability to get ground balls on pitches up in the zone. We’ll have to follow that in his next couple of starts.
What is clear is that this guy looks like a very good prospect going forward. When you combine the stuff that he has, his success in the minors and in his first start in the majors, and the fact that he has always been highly touted; you have a guy who has the potential to be a #1 or #2 starter in the majors. With a least a few other potential stars lurking in the Rays farm system, this team could be very interesting to watch over the next couple of years.