2011 MLB Draft Q&A: Dylan Davis

Continuing the recent tradition of elite players repping Evergreen State baseball, Dylan Davis is the latest top prospect to come out of Washington. We sat down with the hard-throwing righty to discuss his stuff, his demeanor, and his love of Biggies Smalls.

I will be running a new interview with one of the best MLB draft prospects 2011 has to offer each Sunday and Wednesday up until June, and you can click here to find an up to date archive of them all.

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Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Is your height and weight still 6'0", 200 lbs?

Dylan Davis: Yes it is.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Did you grow up playing any other sports besides baseball?

Dylan Davis: I played select basketball from sixth grade all the way until ninth grade, and then I picked up football in eighth grade and played that until sophomore year. At that point I decided I wanted to focus on just baseball because junior year was a big year for me. I decided basketball wasn't the road I wanted to take, especially in high school with the season running right up until baseball. It's hard to get ready and train for baseball when you are playing another sport at the same time, so I decided to focus on just one.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What were you in basketball? Point? Two?

Dylan Davis: I actually played a small forward kind of role, with a little bit of shooting guard. I was a defender who went and rebounded a lot, and I wasn't afraid of any big guys. I was good at boxing out and a quick on my feet, so I always had to guard the tougher guys and try and stick it to them.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: When did you realize that you were essentially better than most of everyone else and could potentially do something with baseball?

Dylan Davis: I actually stopped playing Little League when I was about 10 years old because it wasn't really fun anymore and I wasn't really getting a challenge, so I went into select ball. We were lucky enough to find a guy who put together a really good team and played against all the best teams in all the big tournaments and everything. I always competed well against the top guys, and you notice after a while that you're having fun, and you're doing it against the best competition – pitching well, shutting the opposition down, hitting well – it was no problem and it came kind of easy. This past summer was huge for me though. I never really had been to a Perfect Game event, I had gotten invited my sophomore year but didn't go, so I decided to go to this past one after my junior year to show people how I compared to the rest of the playing field. It actually turned out really well, that's how I got picked to the Aflac game, and I got a lot more notification from scouts after that.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Do you remember the first time you hit 90 MPH?

Dylan Davis: It was in a tournament and I was playing for a team called Norcal, I want to say I had just turned 14. I came into the game to face a few batters and close it out for just an inning, and for most of the batters I was high 80s, but on the last batter I went 89, 90, 91, and then 91 again to strike him out. Someone came up and told me, "dude, you hit 91 MPH!" I thought, "there's no way," but my dad saw the gun, so it was pretty sweet.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Obviously Oregon State has a great recent history, but what drew you to them specifically?

Dylan Davis: When I was about 14 or 15 we went to Omaha for a tournament, and that was when Oregon State was there for the back-to-back National Championships. My coach, Jose Cepeda, used to coach Joey Wong, Darwin Barney, and a couple of the pitchers on the staff, so we went to their hotel and got to talk to some of those guys. It was really cool getting to talk to them about what college ball was like and how much fun they were having. Also, you look at the track record for the team and when they won it they had mostly northwest guys, they know how to win and get guys ready for the next level, learn to prepare, get stronger, and develop the mental toughness you need to be the best you can be. I just felt at home walking around on my unofficial visit last September, it was a great fit for me, the scholarship was great, the coaches were great, all the players were cool, and I just loved being there – I felt at home.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: For a little while there Washington baseball was down, but starting with Travis Snider recently, and going up through Josh Sale and Drew Vettleson last year, there really seems to be a Washington renaissance. What is it like for you being in this next wave of guys?

Dylan Davis: It's great. Washington doesn't really get a lot of notice, and it's kind of nice to be part of helping to put it on the map. We've got a lot of good ballplayers up here, but people don't really expect it because they think it rains all the time and there's constant bad weather. It rains, but not as much as people think, and to be honest you can't beat the summers up here. Everything is green and it's a nice 70-75 degrees every day – perfect baseball weather. So it's really nice to help put Washington back on the map.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How much do you think about the draft?

Dylan Davis: It's still so far away. You don't know what's going to happen and things can change, so I try not to think about it. All I know for sure right now is that I have a scholarship to Oregon State, and we'll see where I go from there. If I'm lucky enough to get drafted and everything is perfect then that's awesome, but I'm ready to go to college and take whatever steps necessary to get to the pros. My ultimate goal is to get to the Major Leagues, and I want to do it the right way and get there the fastest. So I don't really think about it too much, because I try not to put too much pressure on myself. I try to stay relaxed and calm because I feel like if I try to do too much and start to stray away from who I've been to get to this point, that's not a good thing. You've just got to be who you are and try not to think about it.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: When you do allow yourself to dream, what is the image you get in your mind?

Dylan Davis: Honestly, it's just pitching and hitting in a big city in front of all the fans. It's been my lifelong goal. Ever since I was a little kid I've always been around baseball; my parents played softball and I always used to swing those bats and throw the softballs with them. My dad used to take me to baseball games all the time, and I just remember being a little kid and throwing off the mound, hitting a homerun, or striking a guy out. So my dream isn't anything too specific, it's just want to play because I love the game and try to treat it the right way – be the best that I can be.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How many teams have you heard from?

Dylan Davis: Quite a few. I don't know the exact number, but I'd guess about half.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Are the Yankees one of them?

Dylan Davis: Yeah, I've gotten a questionnaire from them, and my best friend, Mike Conforto who's going to Oregon State with me told me the Yankees guy wants to come in and see us hit in a facility that we go to, so we'll see what happens there. I've met the area guy at a baseball tournament this past summer and we chatted a little bit and he's a good guy.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Can you give me a description of your arsenal?

Dylan Davis: I throw a four-seam fastball that has been up to 96 MPH, but 92-94, 95 consistently. It stays pretty true, but sometimes I get a little bit of run into a right-handed batter, which is nice. Then I have a two-seamer that tails into a righty a lot more and moves on a downward plane, like a sinking/running action. Sometimes I'm feeling great and it's up to 91-93 MPH, and then other days it's been 89-91 MPH, but I actually never really drop below 90 MPH anymore which has been nice for me. It's great to have a pitch that moves at 90+ MPH to help me get outs. I'm actually developing a spike curveball, which has been a really nice pitch for me. It's around 82-83 MPH and gets some good 12-to-6 action with a hard, late break. I throw a circle change that I've been trying to perfect because it's such an important pitch, and that comes in around 79-81 MPH and gets a little more dive down into a righty, but I can get it to tail either way to keep hitters off balance.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Besides the fastball, which pitch are you going to for the big strikeout?

Dylan Davis: I'm working on going to the changeup more often now. It's a good pitch and I love it. It drops of the table a lot when I throw it right – it looks like a fastball and then drops off the table at the last second.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: A lot of guys say that when they start trying to perfect the change they cannot control which way it tails all the time. How are you doing with that?

Dylan Davis: Yeah, I'm working on that, too. I do have some problems with it cutting both right and left and not knowing which one it's going to do, but when I throw it just right it gets that tail into a righty. That's how I know when I throw a perfect one.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What is your outward personality on the mound? Calm and collected like a Mariano Rivera, or more demonstrative like a Josh Beckett?

Dylan Davis: I'm more of a Mariano Rivera, I think. I've always been told not to let people see my emotions because they can pick at you from there and see what bothers you. When I'm pitching I try to control the things that I can control, and accept those things that I can't control, like errors. Sure, it's upsetting, but it's part of the game and you can't get mad and show emotion; you have to keep yourself humble and first class, playing hard all the time. Sure, if something big happens then maybe I'll throw a little fist-pump in there, but I'm usually calm and cool – I try to keep to myself.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: So it seems like you're pretty reserved then?

Dylan Davis: Yeah, I'm not really an outgoing guy. When people first meet me they often think because I don't talk, that I'm kind of a jerk [laughs], but once they get to know me they see that I like to get to know people before I really start talking. I mean, I'm a nice guy, but I think people sometimes get the wrong impression because I don't jump into conversations.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: You were more of an outfield prospect initially – when did pitching really start to be your focus?

Dylan Davis: Well, I've been pitching since I was eight years old with a guy name Bill Caudill, so I've always been good at both, and if a team wants me to hit, I'll hit for them. If they want me to pitch, I'll pitch for them. It doesn't really matter to me, I just want to play.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: For the pro scouts that have come to see you, what are they looking at you more as?

Dylan Davis: Mostly as a pitcher. People tell me that they love my swing and everything, but power arms get their attention. I have fun with it; I love to pitch, so I can't complain, you know?

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: If you go to Oregon State will you be playing two-way?

Dylan Davis: Yes. Actually, the only way I was going to consider a college was if they were going to give me the chance to play both ways. Oregon State was one of the schools that was guaranteeing me that, and I know they love me as a hitter and they love me as a pitcher, and they're going to let me keep doing both so long as I keep doing them well, so I'm Excited.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Being from Washington is it safe to assume you were a Mariners fan growing up?

Dylan Davis: Yeah, a little bit. It's kind of tough when they've gone downhill a little bit, but you've still got to support the home team. It's fun to go watch games because Safeco Field is always a good time. I don't really know if I have a favorite team though, I just like watching baseball, and there are good players on every team so I can watch anyone.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Who are the pitchers in the Major Leagues that you look up to, either for their skills or the way they play the game?

Dylan Davis: Actually, there's a guy from Washington and his name is Blake Hawksworth, and he's been working with Bill Caudill and me since I was eight years old, so I've seen him around a bunch. He actually made it up to the pros two years ago with St. Louis, and he just got traded to Los Angeles. I kind of look up to him a lot watching him pitch, his demeanor – he doesn't show any emotion – and he's got good stuff. I try to emulate him because he's made it by doing the right things. I talk to him and he gives me little tips that I use, when to throw what pitch, try this, do that, and so on. It's nice to hear that stuff from a guy that has made it and will continue to have a successful career, so I look up to Blake Hawksworth.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: You being "only" six feet tall is probably something that you have to hear about, largely indirectly I'd guess, from scouts. Does that stigma annoy and/or bother you?

Dylan Davis: You know, I don't really let it get to me, I kind of take it as a challenge and try to show teams that it's not really a factor for me. When I'm throwing well and everything, height is not a disadvantage for me because I still get the ball downhill the same way a 6'5" guy would. Projectability is a big factor in baseball though, and when it comes to pitching I guess a 6'0" righthander doesn't really have it, but that just means you have to go out there and show people you can do it. You've just got to show them what you've got, and you can't complain about it, you know?

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: If you could steal one pitch from anyone else in your draft class, whose pitch would it be, and why?

Dylan Davis: You know, I haven't seen too many guys pitch, but Archie Bradley has a really good curveball. I saw him at the Aflac game, and it looked really nice. I'm trying to get my curveball to look that good, so we'll see how it goes!

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Who's the toughest hitter that you have faced?

Dylan Davis: I faced Bryce Harper a couple of times and that was pretty tough, but as of this year, Francisco Lindor was a pretty tough out – I'm not going to lie. He's a scrapper and he knows how to get his hits. He's a great hitter and I love that kid, so I'll say it's probably him.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What are you hoping for this upcoming season for your team, but also for you personally?

Dylan Davis: As a team we have high hopes. We have a great team going into this season and we want to win state – that's our ultimate goal, and there's no reason we shouldn't do it as long as we play well, play together, and do all the right things. For me personally it's just to get better out there in all aspects of the game: pitching, hitting, running, throwing, all that stuff. Keep working hard, play 100% all the time, make people around me better, push my teammates to be the best they can be, and just go from there.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: On the mound what's the one thing you want to tinker with?

Dylan Davis: Definitely getting to the top. Sometimes I like to go before my legs get over the top, which causes me to break late, my arm speeds up, and that's when balls sail up and in or low and away. So I definitely want to work at getting to the top more and driving down the hill longer so it looks like the ball is picking up speed as it gets on the hitters.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: I saw an article that mentioned one of the three people, dead or alive, that you would have dinner with was the Notorious B.I.G. Being from the NYC area I have to ask – how is a 17 year old kid from the Pacific northwest so appreciative of Biggie? If anything I'd have figured Tupac…

Dylan Davis: No, I'm a bigger Biggie fan than Pac. I don't know, I just like all his songs, good messages, good stories, like his beats, and I liked the movie when it came out. Ever since I was little I've always been listening to Biggie, I've just always liked him more than Tupac for some reason. My friends and I like to listen to him a lot, and a lot of old school stuff – just have a good time.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Favorite Biggie song?

Dylan Davis: My favorite song might be Who Shot Ya? That's a good one. I like the Party and BS remix, and the original, too. I just really like all his songs.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Being 17 years old, how do you deal with the pressure that comes along with these two amazing opportunities you have in front of you? How do you balance that pressure with just trying to be a normal high school teenager?

Dylan Davis: You know, I just surround myself with people that have similar goals to me, like my friends Michael Conforto and Zach Abbruzza. They're great kids who are both going to college, Michael's going to Oregon State with me, Zach's going to Gonzaga, and they aspire to play in the pros, too. I just like hanging around kids who enjoy playing baseball, having fun, and being a kid, you know? You're only a kid once so you have to try and enjoy it for as long as possible. My mom's pretty cool and she gives me a lot advice about life lessons and those things that a mom should do. I just try to enjoy being a kid and not take it too fast. Baseball is something I love, but you've got to focus on school, you've got to focus on family, and you've got to focus on friends. Just take it day by day and step by step without pushing it. My mom calls the people who try and talk down about your chances "dream stealers," and I just have to ignore them and keep focused on what I can do, how I can get better, and stay surrounded with the people that believe in me and support me no matter what.

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