Scouting Yankees Prospect #28: Rookie Davis

Davis is starting to really click

The Yankees drafted right-handed pitcher William "Rookie" Davis in the 14th round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of Dixon High School in North Carolina. Dubbed a high-ceiling arm by most scouts at the time of his selection, he began to tap some of that immense potential in what was essentially his first full season last year.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Rookie Davis
Position: Pitcher
DOB: April 29, 1993
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 235
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

He signed too late in 2011 to make his official professional debut that year and wound up pitching quite well the following season, posting a solid 2.65 ERA for the Gulf Coast League Yankees, but his season was cut short to an illness that was never fully diagnosed but it caused him to lose nearly 30 pounds.

Fast forward to 2013 and the 6-foot-5 hurler, who had put the weight back on over the offseason, posted a combined 1.90 ERA between short-season Staten Island and low-A Charleston.

"I felt like it went well," Davis said. "Overall mentally I felt like I was able to put together a pretty good season. Obviously the late call-up to Charleston was a good experience for me to be around some of the older guys for a little bit and push myself a little bit.

"Everyone can look at the stats and everything, and they look good or above average, but me personally I felt I made some strides last year. Mentally and physically I was able to maintain strength and stay healthy for the full year. It was a good learning experience and I've just got to keep that momentum working this next season."

Beyond the numbers though it was the growth in his entire game that really turned heads everywhere, especially on the mental side.

"I would say just growing up and maturing," he opined as his biggest area of improvement. "My arm strength definitely went up, my secondary pitches and location, they were all there, but mentally I felt I made some pretty big strides from being an 18-year old kid when I was drafted to starting to become a young man.

"It was definitely a learning process for me. There were times the outcome wasn't how I wanted it to be but mentally growing, learning to trust my stuff and myself was a big part for me. I couldn't have done that without my pitching coaches, our coordinator, our mental conditioning guys, and personally I feel like that was the biggest jump that I made."

Citing intangibles is always a bit subjective. However, on the tangible side of things he saw his once 90-93 mph fastball velocity blossom into the 92-95 mph range last season.

"I've always known I had the potential to add a few miles per hour and I know the Yankees felt that too," he said. "It honestly came down to me putting in the work last offseason, putting in the work during the season, and reaching my full potential which I don't think I have.

"I feel like I still have a long way to go, a lot of improvement to do, but the velocity increase was a big step. It was a big confidence booster to know that if I had a guy 0-2, 1-2 and I wanted to climb the ladder with 95-96 mph I was able to do it. I feel like that just made everything better."

It wasn't just his fastball velocity that saw improvement. Unlike many youngsters who see a significant uptick in power, Davis was still able to throw strikes consistently. And the power surge was not exclusive to his fastball; his curveball, already a very good pitch, got tighter and harder as well.

"That's probably the pitch I've seen the biggest increase in and having confidence to throw that," he added. "I just want to keep building on that and hopefully get it a little bit harder, have it have a little bit more late bite to it this coming year."

Because he was throwing everything with more power he had to learn to slow down what was a revamped changeup too and he did just that. He also added a brand new cutter to his arsenal at season's end.

"At Instructs we started to incorporate a cutter and that came along a lot quicker than we anticipated," he noted. "Just continuing to work on that is something I'm looking forward to."

A huge physical presence, one which not only stands 6-foot-5 but weighs in around 245 pounds, Davis has really just begun to start peaking physically.

"I'm coming into camp the best shape I've ever been in -- I'm a lot stronger and a lot better shape now than I've been in. I just want to live up to the potential that I have in myself, work hard, and get ready for this upcoming year and see what happens."

He knows that as good as his game has become recently that there is still plenty of room for improvement in all areas and that has him pretty excited for his long-term future.

"I'm working on everything now and I'm going to put it all together before Spring [Training] and hit the ground running. It was a good year [last season] but I don't think I've come close to tapping the kind of potential I have so hopefully I can add to it this upcoming year," he concluded.

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2013

Charleston

0-0

0

10.0

9

0

8

0.00

2013

Staten Island

2-4

0

42.0

46

13

39

2.36

2012

GCL Yankees

2-1

0

17.0

17

4

17

2.65



Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup, Cutter.

Fastball. Davis has been mostly a four-seam fastball pitcher through his young career thus far. Sitting mostly 90-93 mph when he first signed and through his 2012 debut season, that bumped up to the 92-95 mph realm last year. He averaged slightly above 93 mph for the year and he started to introduce some sinking two-seamers into the mix as well, sitting mostly 90-93 mph [his former four-seam velocity]. Beyond the power though his fastball shows good late life and he is able to command it very well for somebody with so little experience. And as big as he is there is even some thought he could add another tick or two down the road.

Other Pitches. Davis entered the professional ranks with an above average curveball from a spin standpoint but just like his fastball the curveball has gotten better. Once sitting mostly 70-74 mph, he has gotten that up to the 73-76 mph range and tops it out around 78 mph. And just like his fastball, his curveball, which shows very good 12 to 6 action, may not be done from a power growth standpoint. He also has a quality changeup at his disposal, a pitch that is more big league average than anything. It ranges between 84-87 mph and shows decent depth, but it too has a lot of room for improvement. He also added a brand new cutter that is already flashing long-term above average potential. It sits 90-92 mph with good late action. If he can command it as well as his fastball it could be very, very effective.

Pitching. Davis, a former first baseman, was a two-way player in high school so he is still relatively new to pitching. Despite the lack of experience he shows a real bulldog approach on the mound, almost an uber-aggressiveness. He got a little fastball happy after the velocity increase last year and because he's so good at throwing strikes he is still learning to expand the zone a bit more after he gets ahead in counts. But the good news is he is very consistent at using his larger frame and keeping all of his pitches in the lower-half of the strike zone, making him quite adept at keeping the ball in the yard [he has given up just two home runs in his career thus far]. Mechanically there are no glaring flaws either.

Projection. Even without the velocity bump Davis had the mental fortitude, the average or better stuff with three big league pitches, and innate strike-throwing ability to project rather safely as a middle to back-end big league starting pitcher cut in the former Yankee prospect Zach McAllister mold. However, not only has the increased power with both his curveball and fastball made his ceiling even higher, there is still the potential he could add even more power in the coming years and that's not even counting a brand new, promising cutter that has been added into the mix. He's trending upwards stuff-wise and there is still a lot of room for growth with his overall pitch-ability.

ETA. 2016. Davis should pick up right where he left off last season and start the 2014 campaign in low-A Charleston. He'll be a quick candidate to move up to high-A Tampa if he begins the season in similarly strong fashion.

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