Blue Jays finally seeing signs of life from D.J. Davis


Alex Anthopoulos has been at the helm of the Toronto Blue Jays long enough for us to identify some patterns in his drafting tendencies. One of these has been speed-first athletic projects in the outfield, and the 17th overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, D.J. Davis, epitomizes that.

Davis was largely viewed as a disappointment through his first three professional seasons, but given how raw of a prospect he is, he cannot be judged with the same language and currency as a more polished 20-year old. Prior to the 2015 campaign, Blue Jays assistant general manager Tony LaCava told Ashley Marshall of that the organization is still extremely high on his potential.

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“Our scouts call him an ‘eight’ runner, which is the best grade you can give,” said LaCava. “From the left side he can consistently get to first base in 3.9 seconds. I wouldn’t compare anyone to Billy Hamilton — he’s such a special player — but we think D.J. has a skill set that’s as good. But it’s not only speed. He has nice raw power; we just have to be patient because he’s so young.”

Davis has begun to round the corner through 87 games in his encore season with the Lansing Lugnuts, posting a .282 / .336 / .390 slash line with 14 doubles, four home runs and 44 RBI. A younger Davis often resembled you or I playing a game of backyard baseball, hacking without thinking, but as Brian Crawford of highlights in this great profile, a change in approach has helped to turn his young career around.

“I’ve developed more of an approach at the plate,” Davis told Crawford. “I’m seeing all of the pitches way better than I did in my previous seasons of pro ball. I’m getting way better at hitting off-speed pitches. You just have to see them and make sure to not chase balls out of the zone. That’s something I have worked on this past off-season and I’m continuing to work on it daily.”

Blue Jays fans have been quick to write off Davis as a failed Anthopoulos pick, but on the cusp of being just 21 years old this coming Saturday, Toronto has nothing but time. Perhaps the two picks after Davis being Corey Seager and Michael Wacha has soured some to the selection, and if you didn’t already know that, I offer you my deepest condolences.

His offensive game needs significant growth beyond this at higher levels in order for him to profile as an every-day MLB player, but that’s not part of the conversation yet. His defensive potential is enticing, and his legs alone give him future bench appeal as a base running demon.

Throughout the remainder of 2015, I’ll be focusing in on his stolen base totals. In 2014 with Lansing, Davis stole 19 bases but was thrown out 20 times, which is downright ugly. He must continue to run and work on his timing, however, which does take time, because his speed tool is truly special. And that’s not a word I use lightly when discussing prospects.

His eventual test at AA New Hampshire will be critical, as that’s the level where he will encounter top pitching prospects with MLB-level velocity and repertoires. Until that point he’ll remain a lottery ticket, but finally, Davis has given the organization some concrete reason to believe in their considerable investment.

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