The New York Yankees have a lot of fans. That’s why the Bronx Bombers show up in about half of the national baseball broadcasts. While that’s annoying, one silver lining from all those followers is they produce a lot of team fan websites. So when your team trades for a Yankee prospect, finding informed opinions isn’t difficult. Keep in mind they’re written by fans. But they uniformly love Rookie Davis, especially after his breakout 2015 season.
The Basics William Theron (“Rookie”) Davis III is from North Carolina. He got the nickname from his father, who called him Rookie from the day he was born. As a two-year-old, Davis attended the game in Camden Yards when Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game streak. Davis grew up in North Carolina, dominating his high school baseball circuit. That’s where he came to the attention of the Yankees who drafted him in the 14th round in 2011. Davis is 22 years old, right-handed, stands 6’5″ and weighs all of 245 lbs. According to Nicholas Stellini (Pinstripe Alley), that weight is pure muscle. Rich Wilson (Prospects361) says Davis is a big dude, every bit of 6’5″/245 if not more.
The first three years of Davis’ minor league career were nothing much. Then came 2015.
2015 Breakout Season Rookie Davis spent most of 2015 pitching for the Yankees’ High-A team in Tampa of the Florida State League. Tampa competes against the Daytona Tortugas, the Reds’ High-A affiliate. Davis started 19 games for Tampa then was promoted to AA Trenton where he pitched in six games, five as a starter. For Tampa, Davis pitched 97.1 innings and struck out 105 batters, walking only 18. Those are great numbers. Doug Gray details Davis’ season here.
After Rookie Davis’ breakout season, he shot up various prospect lists. The Yankees moved Davis to their 40-man roster this November to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. One analyst thought Davis might be as high as the #7 starter in the entire Yankees system, including their major league pitchers.
Comparison to Amir Garrett Amir Garrett is the #4 Reds prospect according to Doug as well as MLB.com. Both services have Garrett ranked above Cody Reed. Garrett and Rookie Davis pitched in the Florida State League in 2015. Here is how they compare:
Davis has a better strikeout and walk rate and also induces more ground ball outs. Rookie Davis is almost a full year younger than Amir Garrett.
Stuff Davis throws a fastball that has been described as 92-94, can hit 96; a 95 mph heater; routinely sitting in the mid-90s, peaking at 96; a sharp breaking curve ball and a change-up. Here are a couple scouting reports:
Rich Wilson (Prospects361) Scouting Report: Davis has a nice three pitch mix that starts with his fastball that sits 91 to 93 MPH (T94). While he doesn’t have premium velocity, the pitch has a ton of movement and the night I saw him, batters had a tough time squaring him up. Despite the movement as well as his length, he pitches more in the top of the zone and is a fly ball pitcher as a result. That will not play well in Yankees Stadium and is something he needs to work on. His secondary pitches are good with his curveball ahead of his change-up.
Gershon Rabinowitz (Baseball Essential): Davis features a four seam fastball clocked between 94 and 96 miles per hour, an uptick from his velocity early in professional career. Mixing in a two seam fastball of late, Davis is beginning to generate sinking action, leading to an increased amount of ground balls and a better economy of pitches. His changeup and curveball have been described as average offerings by scouts and are aspects of his arsenal he continues to refine at the minor league level. “I am definitely working on my secondary pitches”, Davis said. “I have been able to command my fastball. I am getting to where I need to throw a curveball for a strike, a changeup for a strike, early in the count and control my stuff better than I have, while being able to able to have success commanding the fastball early and expanding the zone late with my secondary stuff.”
Chad Jennings (LoHud Yankees Blog): Improved strikeout and walk numbers made me think of Shane Greene, another Yankees pitching prospect who loomed as kind of a sleeper for years and emerged with one real breakout season. Expected to open in Double-A, Davis is now considered the top upper-level pitching prospect in the system. He has a spot on the 40-man roster, so you can’t rule him out for a big league call-up this season, but it’s more realistic to hope for a strong first half in Double-A, a strong finish in Triple-A, and some sort of big league role in 2017.
Nicholas Stellini (Pinstripe Alley): Yet unlike many hard-throwing prospects, Davis has control of his heater. His low walk rate from A-ball has followed him to Trenton thus far. In three outings, Davis is so far only walking an average of 1.20 batters every nine innings. Though his ERA has been inflated since being promoted (4.80 in just 15 innings while pitching in front of a poor infield defense), his 3.11 FIP shows that he’s been pitching quality baseball.
Rankings Davis made a huge jump up prospects lists after his 2015 season. Prior to Monday’s trade, Davis was ranked the #10 player in the Yankee system by MLB.com, #6 prospect by Baseball America and not rated in the top ten by Baseball Prospectus. Any rankings prior to 2015 are meaningless.
2016 for the Reds Davis will likely start for AA Pensacola. Given the starting pitcher log jam in the Reds minor league system, it’s hard to say how quickly Davis can move up to AAA or to the Reds. His large stature and pitch portfolio have indicated to some that he best fits a bullpen role. Others have said he could be a strong candidate for the middle-to-back of a major league rotation. The Reds are fortunate to have a dugout full of players who fit that description.
On the basis of an outstanding 2015, you can add Rookie Davis to that list.