Between now and opening day I will be looking at the six players that are either brand new to the big leagues, or incredibly inexperienced at the big league level that will be on the Cincinnati Reds roster to start the season. That list will include pitchers Rookie Davis, Amir Garrett, Wandy Peralta, Barrett Astin and position players Stuart Turner and Patrick Kivlehan.

Today we will start off the series by looking at Rookie Davis. He was originally drafted by the New York Yankees in the 14th round of the 2011 Major League Baseball draft. Davis signed for $550,000, which was roughly 2nd round money at the time. He would pitch in their farm system from 2012 through the 2015 season. With the Yankees organization he topped out as their #6 prospect after the 2015 season where he split the year between Advanced-A and Double-A.

Following that season he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds as the top prospect in the deal that moved Aroldis Chapman to the Yankees. For Rookie Davis, and for the Reds, it was a disappointing 2016 season. The right hander battled a few injuries throughout the year, including a hip injury that lingered most of the season. The then 23-year-old had a good ERA in Double-A (2.94), but his strikeout rate plummeted from his past seasons, as did his fastball velocity. In five games at the Triple-A level he really struggled, posting a 7.50 ERA over 24.0 innings.  He maintained a low walk rate at both levels, but the loss of velocity really kept him from missing bats.

Performance this spring

Rookie Davis didn’t seem to enter the public conversation for the rotation early on in the spring. Part of that was probably due to the fact that his 2016 season left plenty of question marks on his resume. He also only had a small amount of time in Louisville and he didn’t do well there. There were early signs though that 2017 Rookie Davis was a different guy than 2016 Rookie Davis. In his first start he was throwing 93-95 MPH, which is a range he would rarely touch in 2016.

It wasn’t just the increased velocity though. Rookie Davis also added a slider to his arsenal. The early reports on it have been outstanding. When it comes to the numbers that he put up, they stacked up well with the others that were contending for a spot in the rotation. In 15.2 innings he posted a 4.02 ERA with three walks and 17 strikeouts. He did what Bryan Price loves to see and that’s pound the strikezone.

What to expect

This is where things get tough. Rookie Davis has never truly been a top end starting pitching prospect. Prior to 2016 he had shown good fastball velocity, control of the strikezone and posted good numbers. Scouts however would note that his secondary stuff was average and that he lacked that out pitch at the next level. At the minor league level we never saw that secondary offering show up. This spring, as noted above, the newly developed slider may very well be that pitch. It certainly was in the spring, but the sample size was very small, too.

Rookie Davis is now throwing a 4-seam, 2-seam, change up, slider and curveball. The fastball velocity we touched on, but the slider and change up were both in the 86-88 MPH range and his curveball works in the low 80’s. He’s got enough offerings to keep hitters guessing, and he’s been a strike thrower for his entire career. If he can continue to throw strikes in the Major Leagues he will probably be solid at worst. If his slider truly has given him that out pitch it could be real interesting to see exactly how good he could become as a guy who could both miss bats and keep a low walk rate.

28 Responses

    • Pat

      Been calling him that since he was toddling. Quality guy from a hardworking family (shrimping and fishing business). Two of my daughters went to Dixon HS with him. no name change but he’ll get a lot of mileage out of it.

    • The Duke

      Sophomore Davis just doesn’t have the same ring to it….

  1. Herzog

    Rookie Davis = the next Mark Buehrle. Before you shut this down, just let me dream…

  2. Madd

    Doug, how do you see this rotation shaking out with all these pitchers?

    • Doug Gray

      I honestly don’t know, but I’ve been saying it for two years now: With as many arms as the Reds have, if you get a chance to start, you better perform because someone else is going to get the chance next and at some point, there won’t be a spot left for you to get another shot at. If you get your chance first, and you are performing, they aren’t taking you out of the rotation, even if there is a guy with a “better” arm. The difference between the arms the Reds have simply isn’t large enough to remove a performer (from the non-Arroyo, non-Feldman group) for someone to get a shot.

      • Billy

        This raises a question for me about putting Stephenson and Reed in the pen. On the one hand, they’re not getting the innings in to show that they’re ready to be the next man up. On the other hand, they are visible to the coaching staff on a daily basis. Is that enough for them to be seen as ready to take the spot of a struggling/injured teammate?

      • The Duke

        Not too long before Sal Romano, Tyler Mahle, Luis Castillo, and Vlad Gutierrez may be knocking on the door.

  3. Cbus

    Rookie Davis’s ability to pound the zone is probably why he won the rotation spot over Stephenson. I’m curious why the same logic didn’t give Reed the edge over Garrett, especially when you also take into account experience and service time.

    Off topic but who is that Hendrix guy that pitched last night!? He can touch 100 and was showing a nasty curve.

    • The Duke

      The Reds have an interesting group of pure relievers (not converted starters) coming up over the next couple years.

      Ryan Hendrix (elite velo and a good curve)
      Jimmy Herget (plus velo, multiple arm angles, deceptive delivery)
      Zack Weiss (was our top RP prospect but has dealt with injuries in the just year, good velo, multiple pitches)
      Alejandro Chacin (stuff isn’t elite, but has proven himself level by level so far, should be in AAA this year)
      Ariel Hernandez (elite velo, filthy curve, control shaky)

      Not to mention all the starters who likely get shifted to the pen at some point or are already there: Travieso, Mella, Strahan, Rainey, Guillon

      There is no reason a small market team like the Reds with this much arm talent in the system should be paying real money in free agency for a reliever after this year.

      • Wes

        I’m a big fan of the numbers game! I’d rather have the depth of reds organization vs having 2 top 50 guys and that’s it. Most pitchers don’t pan out. I’ll play the percentages.

        On that same note my expectations w a pitcher at 2 isn’t a future ace but more of a future major contributor bc most pitchers don’t pan out. Even the ones draft atop the 1st rd

  4. Greenfield Red

    Off topic a bit, but here’s a question:

    If the opportunity arose, should the Reds trade Adam Duvall to the Yankees for highly rated prospect Aaron Judge… straight up?

    It’s an interesting question about perception vs. reality.

    Both have a lot of power.

    AJ is the number 45 prospect in the game, but he stuck out 33% of the time last year between AAA and MLB. He has a track record of striking out. He has 6 years of club control left.

    Duvall struck out a lot too, but not at that rate and plays good defense. He has 5 years of club control left.

    I don’t think I’d make that trade if I were in charge of the Reds.


    • Doug Gray

      I don’t think there’s a way the Yankees would make that trade.

      • Greenfield Red

        I agree, but it’s an interesting question of what is real (what Duvall did last year and appears ready to do this year) and perceived potential (Aaron Judge’s great power). The guy strikes out 33% of the time.

        Maybe the Yankees wouldn’t do it, but I don’t think the Reds should either.

      • Doug Gray

        If I were the Reds, I would. If they didn’t have Jesse Winker, I’d be more hesitant. But with Winker, it gives you some leeway to take a chance on a big upside guy like Judge. I’m not sold he will ever even be an average big leaguer, but you can dream on him being Stanton-like, too.

      • Greenfield Red

        I get your point Doug about Winker (and other corner outfielders for that matter) in the event that Judge is a flameout.

        I think I’d rather have Duvall than Judge regardless of his rating and NY bias in the rating system.

    • The Duke

      No way the Yankees do that. I’m not a Judge believer though. At that height, with those long arms, the K’s aren’t going anywhere. He’ll hit some bombs, but I also think he’s a low average player who ends up a poor man’s Adam Dunn. Three outcome player

      • Doug Gray

        I’d agree mostly. There’s so much risk with Aaron Judge. When he hits the ball, man, can he hit the ball. But I think there’s a lot of concern about how often he can hit the ball. I think he’s a little more athletic than Dunn was, even at a young age. That may help. But still, there’s a ton of risk involved with him. The Yankees, however, wouuldn’t move him for a non-difference maker and I just don’t think they view Duvall as that kind of guy.

      • Cbus

        Doug, you seem to be down on Duvall repeating last years near .800 OPS. What would it take for you to be a believer that he can consistently put up a .300 OPB and .500 Slugging with good D even though it’s a very rare way to get good production? If he does it again this year for a full season does he become one of those break the mold kind of guys?

      • Doug Gray

        If he does it again, it’ll be more evidence that he can.

  5. MuddyCleats

    “If he does it again, it’ll be more evidence that he can.”

    Was that a Yogi-ism? Fine topic 4 conversation, but I really don’t get Reds Fans. We finally have a quality LF, that took yrs to find, and many continue 2 suggest trading him 4 another prospect who may or most likely will NOT develop?? What’s it going 2 take for FANS 2 expect a little more out of this organization than yearly musical chairs of young and marginal ML players? Reds SHOULD be a prideful organization like the Packers of the NFL. The history is on their side, but the REDS performance is NOT of late!