Next up on our list of the Toronto Blue Jays’ top prospects is a toolsy center fielder with a unique skill set. D.J. Davis saw his prospect stock drop slightly after an up-and-down season in 2013 but still has one of the highest potential ceilings within the Blue Jays’ system.
Name: D.J. Davis
Position: Center field
Date of Birth: 7/25/1994 (19)
Acquired: 1st round of 2012 MLB June Amateur Draft ($1,750,000 USD)
High School: Stone County HS (Wiggins, MS)
Height/Weight: 6’1″/180 lbs
Awards and Accomplishments:
- Previously ranked #4 on 2013 Jays Journal Top Prospects
- Ranked as Blue Jays #3 prospect at Baseball America
- Ranked as Blue Jays #8 prospect at Baseball Prospectus
- Ranked as Blue Jays #8 prospect at FanGraphs
- Ranked as Blue Jays #16 prospect at Blue Jays From Away
- Ranked #2 on 2013 Appalachian League Top 20 Prospects by Baseball America
- Named Blue Jays fastest baserunner by Baseball America
- Named Blue Jays best athlete by Baseball America
Stats and Analysis:
The one word to probably best describe D.J. Davis would be “raw”. His rare combination of speed and power makes him a drool-worthy projection. The Blue Jays selected Davis with their first pick in the 2012 draft and without a solid college commitment he agreed to sign for $1.75MM, which was $250,000 under slot.
One of the fastest players in the minor leagues, Davis’ bat didn’t get off to a blazing start in the GCL but had an impressive 12 game stretch after he was moved up to Bluefield, which was highlighted by a .926 OPS. That strong play earned him another late season promotion to the Vancouver Canadians and the 17-year-old finished the season playing in a league mostly composed of college players.
I think it’s fair to say that most people were expecting to see more from Davis in 2013. He flashed brilliance at times, both in the field and at plate, but struggled with consistency throughout the season. Nearly 39% of his hits went for extra bases and he also walked more than 10% of the time but an inability to handle breaking pitches and plus velocity led to a strikeout rate of 29.5%.
Despite the high K-rate, Davis has a good eye for the zone and isn’t afraid to work counts. His OBP plays well above his batting average and when he puts the ball in play good things tend to happen.
Once he gets on base, Davis is a threat to steal at any time but somewhat unbelievably he was thrown out on 38% of his attempts last season. His elite speed is off the charts but he’ll need to develop better baserunning instincts as he continues to advance in order to take full advantage.
Video Credit: Prospect D2J, www.MLBPropsectPortal.com
Davis keeps a balanced approach at the plate with a slightly open stance. He keeps his hands high and has a fairly noticeable leg kick with a big stride forward. He generates good bat speed and crouches a bit to give his swing some natural loft. He has trouble staying back on the ball and will start his hip rotation too early at times. Overall it’s a good-looking stroke that is controlled and not overly long.
Few players can match the speed of Davis, which is considered an 80 grade on the 20-80 scale. Perfect Game clocked his time to first base at just over 3.8 seconds on a ground ball in high school. His speed will turn singles into doubles and doubles into triples but is still a bit “raw” if that’s possible. What I mean by that is his baserunning instincts haven’t developed fully yet but once they do he should be a threat to steal 50 bases (or more). His foot speed also helps overcome mistakes or misreads in the outfield.
The concern for Davis would have to be his hit tool. As I noted earlier, he has a good feel for the strike zone but will swing and miss against superior stuff. However his raw strikeout numbers might be a bit misleading since his patience will expose him to more two-strike counts than the average young hitter. Davis will likely never hit for an extremely high batting average and he’s not your prototypical slap-hitting lead off batter who gets on base primarily because of his elite speed. He has a bit more of a power hitter’s profile but a high walk rate should help balance out his potentially average hit tool.
Davis can drive the ball to all fields and the amount of raw power he has is surprising for a center fielder with his wheels. His ceiling will likely be determined by how his hit tools plays as he could be a doubles machine if puts more balls in play. His six home runs were tied for the most on this year’s Bluefield squad and I don’t see any reason why he couldn’t hit out 10-15 in a season. His speed makes his power even more scintillating since anything Davis hits even near the alley usually goes for extra bases.
His speed obviously helps in the field as well and allows him to cover a ridiculous amount of ground in center. His breaks to the ball and instincts are improving and he should easily become above average with his glove. His arm strength isn’t great and he’s also inaccurate at times. It will likely play as below average but as a center fielder his arm should be at least passable.
Risk, Outlook and ETA
Expect Davis to be assigned for his first taste of full-season ball and it’s tough to say how he will fare in Lansing. The home park and generally hitter-friendly Midwest League should help but he’s struggled against quality pitching thus far and could be overmatched early. If he can continue to make improvements at the plate and keeps his OPS in the neighbourhood of .740 or so the season would be an unmitigated success for the young Davis.
The risk with D.J. remains obnoxiously high and he remains very much a boom-or-bust type prospect. There’s a chance he could evolve into a five-tool, perennial All-Star or he could fall flat on his face once he matches up against better pitching. The Blue Jays’ organization doesn’t have a great track record of developing hit tools but hopefully Davis will find the same sort of success at the plate that Dalton Pompey did in the same position at Low-A last season.
He’s a project so his ETA is a bit tough but if he continues to advance a level each year after a season of Triple-A he could join the Blue Jays in September 2017. How refined his hit tool is at that time will probably be the determining factor in his future as an everyday player but for now at least the sky is the limit.