Scouting Report: Wade Davis: Can He Turn Things Around?

We discussed Wade Davis last week when we discussed those pitchers with poor BABIP in June (click here to view), but I thought he was deserving of a much closer look.  He won the Tampa Bay Rays’ fifth starter spot in Spring Training though hasn’t delivered quite as people expected:

5 Wins
82.2 Innings
4.68 ERA
1.46 WHIP
57 Strikeouts (6.2 K/9)
38 Walks (4.1 BB/9)
.284 BABIP

You look at the ERA and WHIP and figure that he has to be suffering from some bad luck, but that just isn’t the case.  You can see the BABIP is a very realistic number, as is his strand rate, currently at 76.3%.  To explain his struggles, we will have to look elsewhere.

One explanation could be his lack of strikeouts.  Over his minor league career he posted a K/9 of 8.7.  In his 36.1 inning cup of coffee in 2009, he posted an 8.9 K/9.  He clearly has the ability to strikeout more batters then he has, we just haven’t seen it yet.

In fact, his season high is just seven strikeouts, which he’s done twice.  He’s had nine starts where he’s struck out four batters or less.  That just doesn’t cut it.  While he’s not overly unlucky in the BABIP department, he’s also not striking out as many batters as you’d expect.  That’s extra balls put in play, meaning extra hits.  It certainly has an impact.

He’s also struggled a bit with the long ball, allowing 1.4 HR/9 due to a HR/FB of 11.7%.  He’s made 15 starts this season and allowed home runs in ten of them.  It’s tough to be successful when you are doing that.

The control has also been an issue.  For his minor league career, his BB/9 was 3.3.  That includes a 3.4 over 158.2 innings at Triple-A in 2009, so it was not a function of simply facing lesser talent.

It isn’t unexpected to see a pitcher’s BB/9 jump up upon reaching the majors, but a full walk per nine innings is a bit extreme.  It had appeared he had straightened out the issue, walking just three batters over four starts from May 29 through June 16.  In his last two starts, he’s walked eight.  For the season, he’s already walked three or more batters in a game nine times.

Yes, he has the stuff to be successful in the major leagues, but thus far he just hasn’t shown it.  There are three things that he likely needs to do to improve:

  • Increase his strikeouts
  • Limit his walks
  • Limit the home runs allowed

That’s an awful lot to ask to come around so quickly and it wouldn’t be a complete surprise to see him struggle on and off all season long.  With the Rays trying to compete for the AL East title, in the thick of the battle with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, it’s impossible for the Rays to continue depending on a pitcher who just isn’t getting the job down.

With Jeremy Hellickson knocking on the door (click here to read our recent report on him as part of our Prospect Tracker), it’s very possible that the Rays make a change at some point, if Davis can’t turn things around.  Clearly, Davis isn’t a player to be depending on, though with his potential upside, he’s worth stashing on your bench.

What are your thoughts on Davis?  Can he turn things around?  Will he stick in the rotation for the entire season?

Make sure to check out our recent Scouting Reports:

One comment

  1. Sawyer says:

    What do you think the odds are that Hellickson comes up within 1-2 months and replaces Davis in the rotation?

    Related question. For this year, any guesses as to what prospect still in the minors gets called up and makes the biggest impact? Hellickson, Domonic Brown, Daniel Hudson, someone else?

    Who in the minors today is in a position to make the biggest impact in 2011?

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