Name: Bo Davis
DOB: August 28, 1985
A 24th-round selection in the 2009 MLB Draft, Davis immediately set the tone for how short-season Eugene would play. His exciting style, ability to reach base, and effort to create havoc once on was contagious.
The center fielder hit .329 across 20 games with Eugene before succumbing to injury. Davis notched nine extra base hits and scored 19 runs while stealing 11 bases in 12 attempts. He also posted a 16-to-16 walk-to-strikeout ratio en route to recording a .468 on-base percentage.
Davis led the Southern Miss in both batting average at .359 and home runs with 14 while slugging .627 in his final season to go along with an on base percentage of .481. He had four triples this season, giving him 15 for his career, which is a new school record. He also stole 10 bags in 12 attempts and sported a 46-to-43 walk-to-strikeout ratio.
On his 12th and final stolen base attempt of the season – his 11th successful one – Davis drove his hand into the second base bag on a head first slide. Ironically, the Padres teach all of their prospects to slide feet first but that usually doesn't come until instructs. Davis knew immediately that something was wrong on that July 13 evening during the first game of a doubleheader. He clutched his hand close to his body and was already in a soft cast by the end of the game.
The next day confirmed – a broken hand and an end to his season.
"What happens to USC when they lose their quarterback when (Mark) Sanchez went down?" Eugene manager Greg Riddoch said. "Oh, Jesus! Psychologically, what does that do to the team here? Your quote ‘team leader' leaves. What happens when Gonzalez doesn't play first base with a gold glove and drive in all the runs?
"So, what happens when you lose that one who was your catalyst? The fans started to love him, he stole 11 bases in two and a half weeks, and when he got on base, he was exciting. The guy hitting behind him got all fastballs to hit because they knew he could run. Then you lose that to a broken hand, and it hurts. It hurts anybody to lose that guy, and he was our key pulse – our sparkplug."
Davis split time in the leadoff spot and two-hole and quickly became known as a table setter. He got the crowd involved with his aggressive attitude on the base paths as well. Losing him was a blow that Eugene squarely felt.
"He was just like last year with Dan Robertson," former Eugene hitting coach Eric Peyton said. "There is always a sparkplug on the team. Even when he was not hitting, he found a way whether it was defense or running the bases or throwing. His whole attitude towards the game. He goes out there and is having fun. The other players feed off that."
The Southern Miss alumnus has a non-conventional stance that will need to be tweaked to harness his potential. He sets a wide base – one that makes him appear like he is on his way to doing a split. Generally, when someone presents such a stark batting stance it is to compensate for something he previously lacked. The wide base could have been an effort to allow him the ability to hit the inside pitch better. Now, however, he is not setup properly to attack the outside corner since his natural body flow will not allow him the extension necessary.
Changing the base will also give him more power to hit the gaps with regularity. A more traditional and upright stance will provide more torque through the ball, netting more hard contacts.
"In Bo's case, that wide base – when you see a guy like that it is generally because he has had trouble lunging at off-speed and breaking pitches," former Padres minor league field coordinator Tom Gamboa said. "To us, they substitute one bad habit for another. In time, we will try and correct that and get him in a more athletic position where he can get a better load. He may have power we are not seeing because he certainly has size and strength. His stroke is more of one for contact right now."
Davis maintains a compact swing with a level plane through the hitting zone. He has impressive hand-eye coordination and has a knack for putting good wood on balls middle-in. He can also turn on a pitch. His line drive swing works wonders at the top of the order.
It will take some time to gain confidence in the new approach but will provide a huge payoff in the end. Since he doesn't have the traditional aluminum bat swing, Davis should adapt quickly.
"Too bad he got hurt because he was really trying to get a little bit more rhythm through his stance and starting to stay inside the ball more often like most of the college kids coming out," Peyton said. "I was surprised at how much they didn't know. So once he started talking more about it, he started using it a little bit. He always reverts back to his old stance that worked for him. I figured as long as he was using his hands pretty good we can get the foundation down a little quicker. That's what happened, he started using his hands to stay inside the baseball more with a little pop and going the other way. Just when we were really getting somewhere he got hurt. I look for good things from Bo."
"He's smart enough to do all those things he just didn't get enough time to try it," Riddoch said. "You know they all come to us with those college rotational swings where the bat is in and out of the zone and so your bat path is the width of the baseball. When it's in there, you'd better be on time. Maybe all but four or five figure it out by the end of the season, but when you get two and a half weeks, and then you're done, it's still going to take him time. He was doing great, he was hitting .325 or .328 or something like that when he was injured. Eleven stolen bases and he was on his way. So, he would be a guy that definitely would play at Fort Wayne next year."
With plus speed, Davis is a true threat on the base paths. He reads pitcher's moves quickly and has an explosive first step. Getting quality jumps, Davis can steal a base off pitchers with quick times to home. He is also a menace to opposing outfielders. Davis' speed makes him a potential triple anytime he hits the gaps. As he matures in his approach, that hazard will become even clearer to outfielders and force them into mistakes.
Davis is also a quality center fielder that has good range and instincts. He tracks balls well and doesn't take many false steps. The tough ones that are directly over his head do not provide much of a challenge. He has to improve in fielding balls that carom off the wall and his arm is adequate but could use some work.
"I got him running 4.1 to first base so we know he has some speed," Gamboa said. "We know he has hand-eye coordination to put the bat to ball."
Former vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson perhaps summed it up best:
"Bo Davis is an exciting, old school, run through the wall type of guy."
"What I liked about Bo is he's just the old school player," Peyton echoed. "He loves the game."
Conclusion: A grind it out and go full bore all the time player, Davis does all the little things right. He puts himself in the best position to succeed and has impeccable study habits. Working against him is his age. At 24, he is older than the leagues he will play in and must make quick adjustments. Davis also must skip a level or get a mid-season promotion before younger prospects knock on his door. To do that, Davis must stay healthy.
Talk about this story on our subscriber-only message boards
Join MadFriars.com on Twitter at http://twitter.com/madfriars