Davis shrinking strike zone

Chris Davis proved to be one of the Ranger's top prospects in 2007, as he blasted 38 home runs with 118 RBI between High-A Bakersfield and Double-A Frisco in his first full professional season. Lone Star Dugout was able to catch up with the 21-year-old third baseman for a Q&A session.

Jason Cole: What are your thoughts on your season as a whole?

Chris Davis: I thought I had a very productive season, both on the field and off the field. I felt like I made a lot of adjustments mentally more than physically. I just tried to put myself in a position to where I felt comfortable every day and felt good with the swing and approach I had. I worked a lot on defense and still have a lot of work to do there. But overall, I was happy with my first full season and the way my body held up. I was able to make corrections and adjustments when I had to do so.

Cole: Coming into your first full season, did you think you would play this well and reach the Double-A level?

Davis: I honestly didn't think I was going to make it to Double-A. I thought the plans were basically just to get a full season under my belt and let me experience the struggles you go through with fatigue and slumps. A personal goal of mine – and at the time it seemed a little lofty – was to hit .300 with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. Especially after the first half when my numbers were so low. I thought maybe I was pressing a little bit or maybe I was putting too much pressure on myself. I thought I set goals that were a little lofty, but still attainable. I was very happy with the way things played out. Travis [Metcalf] got moved up and it kind of freed things up in Frisco. Everything worked out really well.

Cole: Like you said, you struggled in the first couple of months and then suddenly got extremely hot. Did something click for you or did you just get used to the league?

Davis: I think it was kind of a combination of both. Like I said, I realized I was putting too much pressure on myself. I talked to Scott Servais and he basically told me to keep plugging away and that they had a lot of confidence in me, which obviously helped me out a lot. They knew I was going to make the adjustments. I worked a lot with hitting coach Brant Brown in Bakersfield. I really give him a lot of credit more mentally than physically. He was helping me prepare before each game and going up there with a consistent approach. After the first half of the season, I obviously wasn't very pleased with the way things were going. I basically just kept doing the same thing I was doing every day while trying to make small adjustments. Before I knew it, everything started clicking.

Cole: Players often mention the mental grind of a 140-game minor league season. Did you feel it was tough on you as the season progressed?

Davis: Yeah, I think so. I think it wears on your body obviously. But that starts taking a toll on your mind. You start thinking ‘my legs are starting to hurt. I'm feeling tired. I'm not as strong as I was. Am I going to be able to make contact with the ball and have enough power to drive it into the outfield?' I give a lot of credit to the Texas Rangers and their strength and conditioning. Those guys work with us day in and day out and really help us maintain our body weight and strength throughout the season. It is a grind and I think the longer you play, obviously the more tired you're going to get. I also think it gives you a little more opportunity to correct your mistakes and get a feel for what you think is comfortable and what works for you.

Cole: What did you work on with Frisco hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh?

Davis: Mainly we were trying to work on shrinking my strike zone. A lot of times I would find myself taking really bad swings. The reason I was taking bad swings was because I was swinging at balls that were out of the strike zone. I was getting a little ahead of myself, not being as patient as I should have been. We also worked on me staying back on my backside a little bit longer. I had a tendency to drift out into my front side and get around some pitches. Really I think the main thing was trying to settle myself down at the plate, taking a few more pitches, and trying to get a pitch I could drive.

Cole: With your strikeout numbers dropping and walk numbers rising in Double-A, you must have been pleased with the progress you made in that area.

Davis: Yeah. I've never looked at myself as a big strikeout hitter. Obviously last year I struck out quite a bit and this year I did as well. It was a real big deal to me. A lot of people said power hitters are expected to strike out, but I don't really think of it that way. I want to go up there and put the ball in play hard every time. That was a big deal to me. I wanted to try to correct that and really bear down on that. I did not like the fact that I had almost three times – I don't even know how many, but it was a lot more – strikeouts than walks. That kind of goes hand-in-hand. If you're striking out less and walking a little bit more, your average can be a little bit higher. You're obviously seeing the ball well and giving yourself a chance to see a few more pitches.

Cole: Do you feel there's still room for improvement there?

Davis: Oh, absolutely. Baseball is a game of adjustments. You're always going to be trying to fine-tune your swing or fine-tune your defense. It's going to be a constant grind day in and day out – offseason and regular season – to work on certain things, whether it is approach or just trying to calm yourself down. That's obviously something I'm going to work for throughout my career.

Cole: You got off to a hot start once you first came up to Double-A. Once you saw pitchers for a second and third time, did you notice a difference in the way they pitched you?

Davis: Yeah, that was one of the things that was on my mind when I came up. There were a few guys I had faced down in High-A and I thought to myself ‘these new pitchers are going to see me for the first time and I'm now going to know how they're going to pitch me.' But I think things definitely started changing. You would see similar things with my weakness. They would throw me a little bit more offspeed stuff in fastball counts. You could tell that they were trying to change things up. I think it helped me out to be a few guys I played against in High-A. I think that helped me settle down a little bit and get comfortable.

Cole: Had you ever really experienced that before this year?

Davis: Not really. There are a few guys I faced in JUCO that I had faced the year before. We were a powerhouse in Junior College, so usually you're going to see the other team's one or two every time you play. But not as much on a consistent basis as I did this year. You would see guys maybe five or six times per season.

Cole: How do you feel you improved defensively once you got to Frisco?

Davis: I feel like I had improved a lot. I think a lot of the errors I made were mental errors. I didn't get in front of some balls I should have. I would try to make a great play when I really should have held on to the ball. I felt I made a lot of improvement as far as footwork. I think that's where I get into trouble. I rush my feet or I don't get my feet underneath me. When I got up to Frisco, I basically told myself I was going to try to slow down and not try to create as much as just letting the game come to me. I think a lot of the errors I made were not only mental errors, but were due to fatigue. It's something I'm going to have to constantly work on. It has been awhile since I've played third base. I have a whole year under my belt and I expect myself to make a lot fewer errors next year.

Cole: Will you be playing third base full time in the Arizona Fall League?

Davis: I believe so. That's what I've heard. The Rangers have really emphasized the fact that they see me having a future there. They have really stressed the fact that they want to work with me there. It is really encouraging, especially considering all the errors I made. I think they see the fact that I'm willing to work and make changes. Hopefully they see the potential there. I feel like I can play third base everyday. It's something I'll have on my mind until I can almost perfect it. Obviously nobody can be perfect, but I want to get to the point where I feel comfortable with any type of ball, whether it be backhand, forehand, or a ball right at me.

Cole: Are you on the taxi squad there?

Davis: I'm not sure, that's a good question. I've heard a lot of different things. The day Dave [Anderson] told me I was going to the Fall League, he had said I was the only third baseman on the team and I would be playing everyday. But I don't know if he was mistaken or if things have changed. I know a lot of guys have been added or weren't able to go. I'm not sure yet. I would rather not be. Everyone wants to play everyday.

Cole: When do you report to Arizona?

Davis: We report Monday the 24th to Arizona for about 10 days of instructs. I believe the first day of practice for the Fall League is October 4th.

Cole: So you will be working with the Instructional League club before you head over to the AFL?

Davis: Yeah, before I head over to the other clubhouse. Scott Servais called me the other day and they let me know that they wanted us up there so they can get us back into the baseball environment. Dave Anderson is running instructs this year and I think he's going to try to get me up there a little early so I can start to work on a few things.

Cole: Have the Rangers told you what they would like you to focus on while you're in Arizona?

Davis: They haven't really made a lot of requests. Obviously I think defense is the number one concern. I'm constantly working on my swing. That may be a disadvantage for me. I'm constantly working on my swing, sometimes I put a little too much time in there and maybe not as much as I should with the defense. Dave helped me tremendously and Carlos [Subero] in Bakersfield did a great job. Dave did a really good job of picking up where Carlos left off with the footwork drills. They are two different guys with two different approaches, but Dave helped me out a lot with the mental side as far as how I'm going to approach balls. I'm really looking forward to working with him in instructs. I think defense is probably the number one priority.

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