Monday, June 3, 2013

D.J. Davis - Speed to Burn, but What About the Bat?

      The Blue Jays selected Mississippi HS outfielder DJ Davis with the 17th pick of the 2012 draft.  Davis was not originally ranked that high by Baseball America or Keith Law, but he developed a heavy dose of helium in the weeks prior to the draft, and shot up the rankings.
   Davis signed for a $1.75 million bonus, and reported to the Jays' GCL team.  Davis wound up progressing through three levels last summer, finishing his season off with short season Vancouver. For the season, he hit a combined .233/.339/.374.
    Davis grades out at an 80 for his speed, which is easily the best tool in his arsenal.  He has top of the order, game-changing speed.  JJ Cooper of BA mused on Twitter the other night that no one had been asking him to compare a prospect's speed to another Mississippi high school grad - Reds' prospect Billy Hamilton, who set a minor league record with 155 stolen bases last season:

   So, Davis has speed to burn.  He has much to learn about base stealing, and while his speed covers up mistakes in the outfield, he still has to develop the ability to get better reads on flyballs. His arm, while not powerful, is described as accurate.  Davis' bat is the one tool that is still a huge question mark.
   Last season, he seemed to put things together in a short stint at Bluefield after his promotion from the GCL, but he struggled against higher level prospects at Vancouver.   This spring, there was hope from some that he could open the season in Low A with Lansing, but the club decided that Mississauga native Dalton Pompey was ahead of Davis on the depth chart, and decided to keep Davis in Florida for extended spring training. And realistically, since Davis doesn't turn 19 until July, there really is no need to rush him.
   Sportsnet's Shi Davidi reports that Davis is targeted for a return to Vancouver, which is again likely the best destination for him.  The Northwest League is populated mostly by college grads, so the Jays will be able to fairly quickly and easily get a read on his progress. With Pompey struggling at Lansing after a relatively good start, Davis could jump ahead of him if his play at Vancouver warrants a promotion. Or if he's joined at Vancouver by a number of other top level prospects in the Lower Mainland, and the two-time defending NWL champs  field another strong entry, Davis could spend the whole season there (Anthony Alford claims he's going to start in Vancouver, but that seems unlikely). 
   Davis has been compared to Hamilton in a number of ways, and it's probably a fair comparison.  Both were somewhat unknown in terms of their bats because of the lower level of competition in Mississippi, and both were graded at 80 speed.  Hamilton has progressed to AAA, but the Reds haven't rushed him, and it looks as if his bat has taken a step backward this year.
   The most likely approach is for the Jays to continue to take their time with Davis.  

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