As part of the Perfect Game National Showcase at Chase Field, I was able to secure an interview with one of the rising prospects in next year’s draft class in Chase Davis. Davis is a left-handed throwing and hitting outfielder listed at 6’1” 210 from Franklin High School in Elk Grove, California. He ranked 12th overall of all the high school players in the showcase due to a pair of loud tools (raw power, arm strength). He is committed to play at the University of Arizona unless some team sweeps him up on the first night of the 2020 Draft, where he’s likely to be selected. Those were the biggest two reasons why I wanted to interview him specifically since not only being a University of Arizona commit but also because the Diamondbacks could possibly get two realistic opportunities to draft him out of high school next year with either their own first round pick (14-18) as well as possibly the Competitive Balance A pick (35-40) if there is a run on college players in the first round like in this year’s draft.
Former Diamondbacks TV broadcaster Daron Sutton pulled some strings to set up this interview, which happened after the first exhibition game on Wednesday afternoon. We both went off to the batting cage room behind the first base dugout, where the noise from the second game from Some of the topics in the interview included playing in a showcase, facing left-handed pitchers, favorite player to watch, shifts, and his decision to commit to the University of Arizona. The interview itself lasted roughly five minutes and the topics included playing in a prestigious showcase, facing lefties, battling shifts, and his decision to commit to the University of Arizona.
Playing in a prestigious showcase event in front of many MLB scouts and facing the best prep pitching prospects: “It means a lot being able to be on the field with a whole bunch of guys that are my age and able to just perform at the next level and just be able to make a stamp for the kind of player and person I am and take my game to the next level.”
Challenges of facing left-handed pitchers: “There are a couple challenges: angle is a big thing, especially when you have a guy coming from three-quarters, it’s kind of hard to read some times especially when it’s coming in at 91+. So it’s even harder to think about what pitch is coming, so just hands, having quick hands is the best option just to react and put a good swing on the ball.
Differences playing the three outfield positions in the showcase: “Just depending on the hitter and the way the ball comes off the bat each time. Whether it’s a righty in right field I know the ball is going to tail [left], lefty a ball is going to tail. In left field you have righties that hit the ball really far, so I know a lot of balls have a good chance of being [hit] over my head so it’s just a matter of reacting to each position you’re in.
Decision to commit to the University of Arizona: “The life there, the people there, it feels like home. As soon as I stepped on campus, it felt like home instantly. The food is awesome there, the student life, the people there are really nice and really helping and outgoing, it’s just when I got there I loved the weather, the environment, just being there felt like home. It was a gut feeling and I knew that it was the best place for me.”
Thoughts on Jay Johnson as a coach: “Jay is really real, he’s a real person. He’s really calm, he’s very nice, he’s outgoing, always loves to smile. He really understands what’s best for the program and how to just win ball games. He knows what kinds of people need to be there and how the program needs to be ran, so he’s a great person. When I first met him, I instantly knew that it was going to be a good fit. He’s got a great coaching staff overall, including him and coach Sergio [Brown] and coach [Dave] Lawn, but I love that place and I can’t wait to see what happens.”
Playing at Chase Field: “As soon as I stepped on this field, I looked around and I was like ‘Man, this is where MLB players play every single day’. To come in here and just grind and play each and every single day and they want to be here. I looked around and the field feels awesome, I love the dirt, [artificial] grass, it’s just a good feeling. The box feels good to step into, I just feel like a big leaguer at this age stepping onto the field. It’s a blessing, it’s a great opportunity, I can’t wait to have a chance to play on that field later on in my life.
Taking pride in playing good outfield defense, especially in two very large outfields in Hi Corbett Field and Chase Field: “I have very blessed talent and I’m able to run down fly balls in the gaps. It’s a huge field, understanding that I have to be able to take good routes, throw balls hard, and make a play on every single ball. Every single play, every single ball that comes to me, I need to get the best read on it and the best throw in and go out there and play my regular defense, go out there and shine.”
Favorite Player to Watch/Model His Swing After: “Carlos Gonzalez is my favorite player, on the Cubs right now, used to play for the Rockies for a long time. I really didn’t model my swing after him, people say my swing does look like his, so what’s crazy I just got into my comfortable swing and I just kept building as I got older. I would just look at the highlights and I looked at him and I was like ‘Whoa, his swing is really like mine’ and I understand why people say swing looks like his. He’s my favorite player, good person on and off the field, a good father, good husband, and just good ballplayer. He’s a player I look up to as a person on and off the field.
The topic of shifts that have become more prevalent in MLB and the minors: “I don’t have anything against it to be honest. If the defense wants to shift, they can, I don’t have a problem with it, then I need to adjust as a hitter and hit through the shift. I got to adjust so I can’t get mad at it because it’s the defense’s choice but adjust and putting a really good swing on the ball.
Plans for which major he’ll be studying at the University of Arizona should he elect to not go pro next year’s draft: “Law, so law, criminology law, that kind of whole area. I don’t have a final decision, but something in that realm and I’m excited.”
Davis profiles as a bat-first outfielder who will likely end up playing in either corner spot at the MLB level. He’s already filled out at 6’1” 210 with the build of a power hitter with a bit of room to add more muscle weight to get to 215-220. Davis listed his favorite player as Carlos Gonzalez and models his swing mechanics after him. Curiously enough, Davis compares pretty well to his favorite player with a similar body type and likely position fit long term.
2020 Draft Age: 18 yrs, 6 mths
PG Showcase Measurables
Exit Velo: 97 MPH
RF throw velo: 99 MPH
The exit velocity and OF throw velocity rank up pretty well against the competition, landing in the 95th and 99th percentile in the showcase. However, his 60 and 10 split times don’t rank nearly as well, as they sat in the 77th and 38th percentile. 10 yard splits aren’t the be-all, end-all for measuring an outfielder’s ability to get jumps off batted balls.
This hit tool projects to be below average if he strikes out 25%+ and doesn’t counter with a double digit walk rate and the ability to tap into his above average to plus raw power consistently. Davis achieved an exit velo of 97 with a double down the RF line in the 3 vs. 4 match-up, doing it against the top-ranked pitcher on the Gold team (Carson Montgomery, who came into the event ranked 11th). As he works on getting the ball more and more in the air, I see the power going from above average to plus while also impacting his hit tool as well. His speed numbers are solid, not great, which suggest that his best positions are left and right field in the pros. He had one of the best OF arms in terms of velocity throwing from right field to 3rd base, hitting 99 MPH on the gun, so right field seems to be the safer projection for now than left field. I do think that his defense could improve if Dave McKay was willing to keep coaching outfielders into his 70s, although I find that unlikely.
The projection can obviously change as more and more information comes out as Davis performs in more showcases and plays out his senior year. I see him as a 50 FV guy (average starting player) in the future, so I like him more in Competitive Balance A than the first round with one, maybe two projected plus tools.
Best Case Projection: Right fielder that hits .270/.335/.470 (110-115 wRC+) with 20+ HR power with major platoon concerns vs. LHP. From a strikeout and walk ratio, I see 25/10 K%/BB% against RHP, 30/5 vs. LHP as he crushes RHP in the majors and struggles against LHP, similar to Carlos Gonzalez his last few seasons in Colorado. Above average defender in RF, average baserunner with about 5-10 SB a year. Likely a 2-3 WAR/0-1 WAA guy most of his career although potential for more if the bat clicks and the defense ends up being positive.
Player Comp: The two players I can think of as potential comps are Carlos Gonzalez, who has a similar swing, and David Peralta before his HR power breakout in 2018. Both are left-handed throwing, left-handed hitting outfielders with quality bat speed and average to a tick above average speed. Gonzalez has the better throwing arm and I would bet on Davis being able to get more on this throws than Peralta, whose career nearly ended prematurely due to shoulder issues when he was a pitcher.
Projected Draft Range: 20-45 overall
A good senior year, with a bit of a power breakout and less swings and misses could catapult Davis towards the higher end of that range, which is a bit uncertain at this point with one year to go before names get called. After the Perfect Game National Showcase, which typically kicks off the summer circuit for these top prospects, Davis will be headed to Bradenton to compete in the PDP Summer League. The PDP league features 80 of the top high school draft prospects, many of whom also ranked highly going into the PG showcase.
Since 2015, a bench mark I use since that’s when Deric Ladnier took over the amateur scouting department, the Diamondbacks have only taken 3 high school bats in the draft on Day 1: Matt McLain, Alek Thomas, and Corbin Carroll. They all have a similar size profile of about 5’10” 170 with average at best power, a middle of the diamond position, and a hit tool that projects to be plus. Davis is a change from that type of hitter, more of a big slugger playing a corner position. The team did draft that demographic two years ago with Pavin Smith 7th overall in the 2017 draft, so it’s not impossible either.
This will be something I’ll revisit when we get closer to the 2020 Draft, probably in the offseason when we get more information on prospects from the scouting industry overall.