Scouting Yankees Prospect #46: Rookie Davis

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 and still very much considered one, he endured a season of struggles in his first extended taste of the long-season leagues last year.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Rookie Davis
Position: Pitcher
DOB: April 29, 1993
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 235
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Coming off of a solid 2013 campaign that saw him post a combined 1.90 ERA between short-season Staten Island and low-A Charleston and then reporting to camp is great shape, Davis seemed poised for a monster breakout season last year. However, it never came to fruition as he posted a mere 7-8 record with a surprisingly high 4.93 ERA for the low-A Charleston RiverDogs.

"It was a growing year," he said. "I had some ups and downs that I battled. Obviously the numbers weren't what everyone projected them to be or what I wanted them to be but during the course of the season last year I had to learn that while you want to have good numbers and you're expected to put them up, minor league baseball is more about development, and seeing how you're development continued to grow.

"So while some people may think that I've regressed or that I'm not exactly what everyone kind of built me up to be to me, last year was more about a 'finding out who I am' season. Whenever people ask if me if I had good season last year my answer is yes.

"To some people who go on Minor League Baseball's website and see the numbers, and see the ups and downs, it may not make sense to them. But to me I'm going to look back at this in five, ten, even fifteen years and be appreciative of the experiences that I went through, the people that I went through them with, and if I never had the season that I had I wouldn't have learned some of the valuable lessons that I can take through not only baseball but through everyday life.

"I had to grow up and that was biggest thing for me last year, learning how to deal with a full season, taking care of my body the best that I can, and going out every five days. It was a learning season. Like I said the numbers don't really reflect the kind of pitcher that I am, I truly believe that. And I think if you ask anyone in the Yankee organization they'll agree with that too."

Stuff-wise it is rather difficult to believe how somebody of his stature, power, and makeup could struggle as much as he did. However, the fact remains that he did struggle. But through those struggles he believes the collective experience, while perceived by some as a real negative, can be turned around as a true positive.

"Honestly learning to deal with failure," he listed as his biggest lesson learned. "Last year statistically and execution-wise it was the worst season that I've ever had. It was the first time that I've dealt with failure like that. The thing that I learned is that every five days you have to go back out there.

"A little bit of it was embarrassment. I expected so much out me last year and a lot of other people did too, seeing it as my breakout year, and I put a little bit of pressure on myself. I never got out of it really. I never got out of my own way.

"I was more worried about what are forums going to say, what are people in the front office going to think, what is my pitching coordinator going to think, and I got away from what made me successful and that's just enjoying the game and having fun with the guys.

"It's something where I've had to take a step back and realize baseball is a game I'm only going to be able to play for a certain amount of time. That's the truth for everyone. I have to understand that every time I take that mound it could be the last time I'm out there and I need to enjoy rather than worrying so much."

He did everything he could to get in the best physical shape in preparation for the 2014 season and in that regard his lack of success was disappointing. In hindsight though, perhaps he focused too much on the physical side and not enough on the mental side, and that's not a mistake he plans on making a second time.

"This upcoming year it's not going be about numbers for me," he emphatically said. "It's going be about execution, having a positive mindset, being a better teammate, and being a better guy to be around in the clubhouse and on the field, and be a leader. That's something that in 2013 I was the leader in the clubhouse in Staten Island. I was one of the leaders on the team and I got away from that this past year.

"This offseason I've been putting work in the gym. I know I say this in every interview I've ever done with you but this is really the best physical shape I've ever been in and I think you'll see that again.

"I've been seeing a sports therapist that's near my hometown and I've been doing a lot of great work with her. She does a lot of work with Division I athletes and it's something that I really wanted to address.

"A lot of guys, if they do it they're too embarrassed to say it and some guys are even too embarrassed to reach out but while I want to have a physical edge on everyone and I show that in the weight room I need to have the same mental edge. I believe that speaking with her and preparing myself mentally for another full season is going to be the difference that people will see in me this year."

While he's hoping to have a mental edge as well as a physical one in 2015, the fact remains that not all of his problems last season were merely learning how to handle failure. Some of it can be attributed from getting away from his normal fastball heavy approach on the mound too.

"I added the cutter this [past] year and I believe with the cutter I became a little bit more passive," he opined. "I wasn't attacking batters as much with fastballs as much I should have. I have a good fastball with a lot of late life that's heavy and I got away from it, and my command suffered because of it."

Not only did the fastball command suffer as a result of not throwing it nearly as much as he would have liked but his offspeed pitches in particular never really continued making the strides they once did. His curveball never really materialized as a strikeout pitch nor did his developing changeup. And while the cutter has its benefits, velocity-wise it's a little too close to his fastball.

That had Davis and the Yankees working on developing a slider late in the season. He toyed around with it some and even threw a few in games but it wasn't really a pitch he was able to diligently work on until Instructional League this offseason.

"The slider was a very good pitch for me. It was hard, it had very good depth, late life on it, and I was pleased with that. I was able to pick that up really quickly at Instructional League. I played around with it a little bit [during the season]. Gil Patterson came into town one day and we worked on it, I threw it in a couple of starts, and I was never really comfortable with it.

"We decided to keep it in the back pocket until Instructional League when we could really work on it. The focus on Instructional League was two-seam fastballs and then the slider. Those were the only two pitches that I threw. I like [the slider] a lot, it's going to be a good pitch for me this year."

His repertoire continues to expand, the velocity continues to improve, his body continues to develop better, and mentally he believes he has grown up a ton over the past calendar year. He's simply looking to put 2014 behind him and prove he's not nearly close to resembling the pitcher that struggled so much a season ago.

"Going into last year I went into camp in great shape and I'm in even better shape this year. While I didn't fulfill my expectations last season I one-hundred percent believe I'm going to this year. The mental state that I'm in right now and the confidence that I've rebuilt in myself, I think everyone will see that in 2015.

"The arm feels great, the body feels great, and mentally I'm in a much better place, and I'm much more prepared for this [coming] year than I was last year. Everyone will see me return to form in 2015 and even be better than I was in 2013. I know that, I one-hundred percent believe in that, and this will be the year that you see me have a little bit of a breakout year because I'm prepared and I'm ready for it.

"In my mind 2015 is going to be the year that I not only prove to everyone but prove to myself that I'm a front of the rotation guy. I truly believe that. I believe this year I'm going to have fun going out there and dominating every five days, and that's the mindset that I need to have.

"I have to have the mindset that every time I step out on to the mound that I'm the best guy we can have out there. I'm looking forward to this year and I think everyone will see that I'm not only as good as I was in 2013 but that I'm going to be even better," he concluded.





























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Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup, Cutter, Slider.

Fastball. Velocity-wise Davis has added power over the years and still continues to do so. Once sitting in the 90-93 mph range with his four-seam fastball, he bumped that up to 92-95 mph in 2013 and it stood there for most of 2014 too. He was sitting more in the 94-96 mph range at Instructs, however, showing signs that the power may not be entirely done developing. He started mixing in some sinking two-seam fastballs a year ago and it continues to develop now. Like his four-seamer it shows good late life and the power continues to develop. It sat mostly in the 91-92 mph range in 2014 but there were times he was bumping 94 mph and even topped out at 96 mph with his sinker, and it was sitting close to that velocity at Instructs. Once able to command his fastballs extremely well, his command evaded him some last year as he threw less fastballs. He also throws a quality cutter from a velocity standpoint too. it averages 90-93 mph for the most part but like his four-seam and two-seam fastballs it too has topped out at 96 mph.

Other Pitches. Davis has three decent secondary pitches right now, all of which are more average than spectacular. He once favored his curveball as his main go-to secondary pitch. It'll sit anywhere from 72-77 mph and shows good break but it is more of a pitch that he throws now for a get-me-over strike than a true swing and miss pitch. He also has a decent changeup that he throws as a contact pitch and he rounds out his repertoire with a quickly developing slider. It isn't truly game tested yet but it shows some impressive long-term potential, not only sitting 86-90 mph but with some real late break. He can throw all three for strikes but the command of them overall is average.

Pitching. Davis has a wide array of pitches that he can throw for strikes and at 6-foot-5 he is quite adept at consistently pitching with a downward angle. That helps keep the ball in the yard and it aids in the batters' inabilities to barrel up the baseball too. He is pretty athletic for a bigger pitcher too so he is very consistent with his mechanics and he normally has a real go-get'em approach of attacking batters. While being a six-pitch hurler has its merits it has its downfalls too, most notably the inability to rapidly develop any one pitch into a plus offering. The velocity is there for his fastballs to be plus pitches but the command of them, once a solid strength, has started to slip as he has incorporated more pitches. A former high school first baseman, he is still developing his overall feel for pitching.

Projection. With brute power, strength and size, the kind of combination that screams long-term, front-line starting potential, Davis has the natural ability to be overpowering on the mound. The problem is he isn't a lot of the time and it's because he has yet to develop that go-to secondary pitch to compliment his impressive set of fastballs. Yes, throwing more fastballs and thus improving his command of them will go a long way towards tapping some of his immense potential but he will still need a wipeout plus secondary pitch. Davis and the Yankees are hopeful his newfound slider can be that pitch but it remains a wait and proposition for now. Until he does he projects better as a middle to back-end big league starting pitcher. Keep a close eye on his secondary pitches though. Should one of them take a huge step forward and the overall pitch-ability improves akin to Ivan Nova coming up through the minor leagues he could find himself in rare pitching company given his power fastball, endurance, and second to none work ethic.

ETA. 2017. Despite Davis' statistical struggles in Charleston last season he is still a strong candidate to move on to high-A Tampa in 2015. Even if he begins back in Charleston to start the season he should still see ample time in the Florida State League this coming season.

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