Before we get to Devin Davis’ critical overarching place in the Tampa Bay Rays’ draft strategy, let’s talk about his abilities as a player. Davis is a 6’3″, 215 first baseman out of Valencia High School in California. Like a few other players that the Rays have selected this year, he stands out for his power, which comes from an impressive trifecta of factors. Davis has strength, good lift in his swing, and the plus bat speed to make you believe that he can keep hitting the ball a long way at higher levels.
Davis’ bat speed is good enough that he drew a Wil Myers-esque “The ball makes a different sound off his bat.” On the negative side, he also has some Myers-esque holes in his swing, but his pitch recognition is relatively good and he has time to figure out how to make enough contact. Davis also needs to do a better job using the whole field and ensuring that he is looking gap to gap and not selling out for homers. That being said, the power is legitimate by all accounts, and there is optimism that he can eventually hit for a decent average and get on base at a nice clip.
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Usually discussing a first base prospect’s defense is pretty boring, but that isn’t the case with Devin Davis. In short, he sounds like a future Gold Glover. He already excels at picking balls in the dirt, saving errors from his teammates in high school and in showcases. He almost never gets crossed up with his footwork–he knows the way that he is supposed to be positioned at all times–and he is accurate when he needs to make throws. Of course, his defense only matters if he hits, but it is great to know that he won’t require much work in that regard. Most important of all, he moves well enough and has decent enough arm strength to play left field if his team wants another way to get his bat into the lineup in the future.
Davis is committed to Loyola Marymount, and he will likely take a legitimate bonus to sign, say $350,000 or $400,000. Even so, he helps the Tampa Bay Rays in two major ways. The first is that having both him and 16th rounder Joe Davis gives them two chances once they figure out how much money they have left over. Let’s say that they have $100,000 to spend once they sign everyone else that they can–then they could ask both Devin Davis and Joe Davis whether they would take a $200,000 bonus and have a better probability of adding one more slugger to their system.
The other scenario where Devin Davis would be important is the nightmare scenario, the one where 2nd rounder Chris Betts doesn’t sign. The Rays drafted Betts in Round 2 because they think that scenario is extremely unlikely to occur–say 50 to 1 odds–especially given that they drafted eight college players right after him to make sure that it would work out. The Rays have every intention of signing Chris Betts, and they almost certainly will.
That being said, if Betts doesn’t sign for whatever reason, the Rays’ backup plan will be to sign both Joe Davis and Devin Davis plus hopefully another player or two. If Betts doesn’t sign, it wouldn’t be like what happened to the Houston Astros with Brady Aiken–Aiken was going to sign for a below-slot bonus while Betts will look to sign for above-slot. With that in mind, if the Rays can’t agree to terms with Betts, they will actually have more money to utilize to sign the two Davis’s rather than less. The Rays’ goal is to sign Betts and maybe even Betts and a Davis, but if that doesn’t work out, their backup plan is ready.
Devin Davis is an exciting prospect, and the Tampa Bay Rays will see whether it works out to sign him. His selection helps the Rays ensure that they will be adding at least one or two high-upside power bats to their system when it is all said and done, even as we acknowledge that he may not be one of those players who ends up in their organization.
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