By Lincoln Hamilton
Today, we’re going to take a break from the draft and July 2nd signings and jump back into the prospect world with a scouting report of arguably the hottest young hitter in baseball, Rangers slugger Chris Davis.
In a great piece of timing, Davis hit a homerun last night in Yankee Stadium, to go along with a 3 homers and a 1.223 OPS in his first 19 big league at-bats.
This comes on the heels of Davis terrorizing AA this year to a tune of .333/.376/.618 and AAA at a clip of .291/.361/.527.
This success for the 22 year old first baseman is all the more surprising because Davis came from relative obscurity; drafted in the 50th round in 2004 by the Yankees, 35th round in 2005 by the Angels, and finally signing from a Texas JuCo as a 5th round pick of the Rangers in the 2006 draft.
In another break from the ordinary, we’re introducing a new guest writer to the fold for this breakdown, Lincoln Hamilton.
Lincoln is based in Texas and was able to catch Davis in action when he was at AA earlier in the season. Be sure to say hello to him in the comments and let him know what you think about the article.
Catch the full Chris Davis swing breakdown after the jump…
(Chris Davis photo: Charlie Riedel/AP)
I have four videos of Davis from batting practice:
Chris Davis has gone from relatively anonymous minor leaguer to one of the game’s most heralded prospects in short order. The Rangers’ hulking slugger has mashed all year and as a result has earned himself a trip to Arlington where he is now the team’s starting 1st baseman until Hank Blalock is healthy - or in other words, for the foreseeable future.
Davis was drafted by the Yankees in the 50th round of the 2004 draft but did not sign and elected to attend the University of Texas. However, before playing a game for the Longhorns, Davis left UT and went to star at one of the nation’s top JUCO programs, Navarro JC. After a productive season Davis was again selected, this time, by the Angles in the 35th round. The two sides were unable to come to a contract agreement and in 2006 Davis was chosen for the third time in three years, in the 5th round by Texas.
Physical Description: The left-handed Davis is listed at 6’4”, 235 pounds and is every bit of it. He’s built more like a NFL tight end than a baseball player – well proportioned musculature, large upper body, big arms. Put simply, Chris Davis is a big, strong kid.
Setup: Davis stands tall in the batter’s box with very slightly bent knees. His stance is rather short, with his legs not much more than shoulder width apart. He holds the bat even with his left ear at shoulder height.
As the pitcher goes into his windup, Davis drops his hands considerably to mid-torso level. Occasionally Davis will also move his hands away from his body in a sort of pendulum timing mechanism that adds length and loft to his swing which, in turn, leads to swings and misses.
Plate Discipline: This is an area of Davis’ game that needs to, and can, improve. Due to Davis’ production, he has yet to tally more than 400 at-bats in a single minor league stop. He has walked 7.8% of the time in 332 plate appearances (AA and AAA combined) in the 2008 minor league season, which is below average for a power-hitting first baseman. Davis, however, does have solid pitch recognition; his excellent bat-speed and short swing path allow him to let the ball travel deep in the zone. There are signs that he is becoming more discriminating at the plate, his walk percentage is up to 10.9% during a relatively short stint at Triple-A (128 PA).
Make no mistake about it; Chris Davis goes up to the plate looking to hit the ball a long way.
Head Movement: His head very still, only moving downward slightly to focus on the ball as it approaches home plate and forward a tiny bit as his weight shifts.
Lower Half/Stride: The first thing that really stood out to me when watching Davis bat was his hips. He generates remarkable rotational velocity with his hips which, more so than his strong upper body, is where his power comes from. A lot of guys are strong but don’t have much power, and some guys have good power but aren’t that strong. Chris Davis is both strong and powerful.
He takes a relatively small stride, which helps him maintain good balance and proper tempo during his weight shift, and opens his front side slightly. There is a slight tendency for Davis to open up too much on his front side. He, occasionally, rotates his front foot almost 90 degrees and steps closer to first base which leads to his bat being in the zone less and an inability to cover the outside corner.
Swing Path: When all goes well Davis has a short, quick stroke that generates lots of loft and leads to long fly balls – many of which land past fences that are set up before the game. During his load Davis raises the bat until it is almost perpendicular to the ground; he then drops the barrel of the bat in a hurry and manages to get good extension on everything that’s not right in on his hands. When his hands move a little too much or he gets a little too eager and opens up his front side too much, Davis is prone to swinging and missing. Overall, there is a lot to like as his problems are correctable with good coaching and practice.
Statistics: Perhaps the best thing about Davis’ production in the minors is that he continues to improve with each stop.
Chris Davis is arguably the minor’s most productive player to date. While his Double-A stint this year was buoyed by an unsustainably high average on balls in play, his AAA numbers are just as good as they look on the surface – any boost he gets from playing in a hitters park, in a hitters league is just about counterbalanced by the fact that Davis is just 22 years old and putting up those numbers as one of the younger players at the level.
His Isolated Power (IsoP) points to extreme power potential and his 2008 line drive rates are off-the-charts good. More proof that he hits the ball really hard and far.
Unfortunately Davis’ statistical record isn’t all triple-crown glory and BIP data excellence. Davis has struck out in more than 21% of his plate appearances in each and every minor league stop, so far. His inability to make contact at lower levels of competition, lead one to wonder about his ability to do so at the highest level. Strikeout percentages of 21-24% do not destine a player to languish in Quadruple-A obscurity, but they do limit the upside of any player.
Summary: Good things happen when Chris Davis hits a baseball. Davis carries himself with the poise of a veteran player. He has a confidence and focus about his game that doesn’t seem to wane. Unfortunately, his relatively low walk rates and high strikeout rates added with the fact that he offers very little benefit in terms of defense or base running limit him from being in the truly elite level of players. The power is real, and you could see Davis posting 35 to 40+ home runs seasons and giving opposing pitchers reason to pause when thinking about pitching around Josh Hamilton.
Batting Order Projection: #4 or #5 hitter
Statistical Projection: .280/.340/.550