The beautiful thing behind scouting the minor leagues is that it allows one to draw parallels between the past and the future. The Blue Jays are no different, as many of their players have drawn, both negative and positive, comparisons to other Major League players past and present. In this segment, I will be examining some of these comparisons with a focus on determining the differences in an effort to address where they can improve to graduate from simply a prospect, into a full-time Major League player.
The fact that D.J. Davis can even be considered in the same sentence as Carl Crawford is a testament to his outstanding raw talent. At 6’1” both left-handed hitting outfielders are roughly the same size, with Crawford weighing only around 10lbs. heavier. They have similar defensive profiles as plus-defenders with less than spectacular arm strength, and were also both 17 when they made their professional debuts.
Where Davis stands out is in the Speed Category. Many scouts agreed that Davis was one of the fastest, if not the fastest, player in the 2012 Draft and he received as high as an 80 grade for it on the standard 20-80 scouting scale. Crawford, on the other hand, was not known to be the burner on the base paths that he is now, leading up into the 1999 draft. In fact Anup Sinah, a scout for the Perfect Game organization, claimed he would have only given Crawford a solid-average rating of 50-55 for his speed tool.
What sets Davis apart from other speedy players, like Juan Pierre, and keeps him in the conversation with Crawford is his sneaky power potential. Davis had always been on scouts’ radars but he really stood out once he began to harness his hitting potential, which further translated into more extra-base hits and homeruns. So far in his professional career, Davis has managed to post a consistent SLG% around .400 that easily compares with Crawford’s own career minor league mark of .400. Conversely, by age 18, Crawford had only managed to slug 6 homeruns (over a total of 195 games), while Davis already has 11 long balls in only 118 games. Clearly, Davis could set himself apart, from even all-star talents like Crawford, if he continues to realize his power potential in the higher levels of the Minor Leagues.
While Crawford may not have possessed the sort of blazing raw speed and sneaky power that makes scouts drool in the draft, he did have the polish to make his tools instantly translate into the professional game.
Crawford hit the ground running in his age 17 season, by posting a slash line of .319/.350/.404 with 17 stolen bases in 60 games for the Rookie League Princeton Devil Rays. The Rays responded by giving him an aggressive promotion to full-season ball, as he began his age 18 season for the Class A Charleston RiverDogs of the South Atlantic League. Crawford answered the call and continued to remain consistent by posting a similar .301/.342/.410 line and also finishing with an eye-popping 55 stolen bases in 135 games. From there he would get pushed up consecutively to Class AA and AAA and eventually make his Major League debut as a 20 year old in 2002.
Davis, on the other hand, is much more rough around the edges. At the age of 19, Davis should receive his first full-season assignment this year, but he still has a lot to prove in the batter’s box. His career triple slash line of .245/.339/.402 shows promise, but his 146 strikeouts over 118 games shows an extreme lack of discipline that will need to be addressed. In comparison Crawford struck out 149 times before he was 19 but, in his defense, it took him 77 more games to reach that number.
Crawford may not have been heralded as a base-stealer out of the draft but he quickly proved that he was more than adept at stealing bases. Crawford succeeded in stealing a base in 85% of his chances, for a total of 72 stolen bases before he was 19. Davis, on the other hand, with his blazing speed has managed to only steal 38 bases and has only been successful at doing so 68% of the time, which clearly compares negatively to Crawford.
D.J. Davis has all the ability in the world and, based only on his tools, Davis can be compared, even more favorably in some instances, to Carl Crawford. What Davis clearly lacks is the polish to put it all together. While Crawford was a quick riser who used his high Baseball IQ to post great seasons statistically, Davis is still learning how to properly harness all of his natural-born talents. Hopefully in 2014, Davis can put it all together and emerge as a Crawford-like player during his first full-season. However, until he shows patience in the batter’s box and more calculated skill on the base paths, Davis will remain far away from being the sort of player Crawford was as a Major League All-Star.