Friday, March 6, 2009

Top 15 Pitchers: #2 Wade Davis

Wade DavisWade Davis
6'5" 220 lbs. DOB: 9/7/85
Right-Handed Starting Pitcher
Bats: Right | Throws: Right
2008: Montgomery/Durham
Acquired: 2004 Draft, 3rd Round, 75th Overall

Davis entered the 2008 season looking like he could turn into one of the truly elite prospects in the game. In 2007, he had dominated Vero Beach and more than held his own in Montgomery as a 21-year old.

He was back with the Biscuits for 2008, and just kind of underwhelmed in 19 starts there. He was far from dominant(3.85 ERA) and his K/9, which had been over 9 each of the past 3 seasons, fell to 6.8. His Montgomery stat line really wasn't anything better than average. Despite that, the Rays bumped him up to Durham toward the end of the year, and in 9 starts there, it looked like the old Wade Davis again.

His ERA with the Bulls was 2.72, his WHIP was down to 1.19, and he was striking guys out a a rate of just over 1 an inning. The only thing Davis really struggled with was his control, walking 24 in 53 innings and seeing his BB/9 climb over 4 for the first time in his career. It's also likely that Davis' improvement in Durham can partially be attributed to better luck: His FIP in Montgomery was 4.04, while in Durham it was 4.08.

Davis's scouting report still reads like a top-level prospect's: 4-seam fastball that sits in the mid-90s to go along with a hard 11-to-5 curveball that he commands well. He's also thrown in an improving cut fastball and has experimented with a 2-seamer. He mixes in a straight change-up that profiles as an average pitch in the future. Scouts also praise Davis's competitiveness and poise on the mound.

This spring, Davis has turned some heads with two starts so far. In his first, he pitched two perfect innings against the Yankees, striking out A-Rod in the process. In his second start, against St. Louis, Davis pitched 3.2 innings and allowed just 1 hit and struck out a batter. He's probably not a serious candidate to win the #5 spot out of spring training, but at the very least, he's put his name on the map.

He'll be back in Durham to start the year where he'll have to work on throwing strikes more consistently than in 2008. He'll be up in Tampa Bay this year, but when depends on his performance. If he's shutting down International League hitters, the Rays might speed things along and find him a bullpen spot over the summer. If he doesn't force the Rays' hand, then he'll be a September call-up in the same fashion as Mitch Talbot and Jeff Niemann last year, but with a chance to earn a more important role a la David Price. Depending on how Andy Sonnanstine does in 2009, Davis could be the leading contender for a rotation spot in 2010.

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