- Rating: 5.61
- Age: 30 by Opening Day
- 2022 Stats: 2-5, 4.09 ERA, 1.295 WHIP, 134.1 IP, 98 ERA+
- 2022 Earnings: $1,500,000 salary with $250,000 opt out buyout (via Spotrac)
- 2023 Status: Unrestricted Free Agent
One of the most pleasant surprises about the 2022 D-Backs was the ability of several players to either recapture former performance or outperform (admittedly low) expectations set at the start of the season. Zach Davies epitomizes that former group. As our very own Makakilo noted in the announcement of his March 24 signing, Davies had two excellent seasons in 2019 and 2020 for the Brewers and Padres respectively before luckily (for the D-Backs) stumbling in 2021. Clearly, Mike Hazen and the front office saw the potential within that stumble that could lead to a productive starter who would either be flipped at the deadline or provide much-needed depth in the rotation. He certainly provided the depth and covered a substantial 134.1 innings over the year, which was good enough for fourth-highest on the team. But as several young hurlers began to move up to the majors, his roster spot became less tenable and the D-Backs bought out his contract option.
Originally drafted in the 26th round of the 2011 Draft by the Orioles out of Mesquite High, the right-hander quickly moved through the Baltimore minor league system. They exclusively used him in the rotation and he was an absolute grinder as he eclipsed 100 IP in every year he was in their system. He spent a season at each level and was on the cusp of a major league call up in 2015 when he was traded to the Brewers in an increasingly rare one-for-one trade for Gerardo Parra. To say the least, the Orioles got the fuzzy end of that lollipop as Davies went on to have a solid cup of coffee as a September call up starting six games and posting a 3.71 ERA and 108 ERA+. Conversely, Parra struggled to a .237/.268/.357 (.625 OPS) slash line in the second half of the season as the Orioles failed to make the postseason.
Following that brief but positive stint, Davies began the 2016 campaign in the Milwaukee AAA affiliate but quickly rejoined the big league club in April and solidified himself as a number four starter. As a rookie, he more than held his own as he posted a respectable 3.97 ERA, 1.249 WHIP, which was good enough for a 107 ERA+. Even more impressively, Davies managed to cover 163.1 across 28 games despite not even beginning the season with the major league club. Davies’ ability to avoid injury and post impressive inning totals became his calling card over the next three years despite a down year in 2018 where he dealt with rotator cuff inflammation but managed to avoid the dreaded Tommy John’s surgery.
Davies bounced back with a vengeance in 2019 however as he started 31 games that covered 159.1 IP and a solid 3.55 ERA. This bounceback season was good enough for the Padres to ship off Eric Lauer and Luis Frias for Davies and Trent Grisham in the 2019 offseason where he joined a solid rotation including Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger. He rewarded the Padres’ faith in him with his best season in the albeit COVID-shortened season as he headlined a rotation that made it to the NLDS before falling to the Dodgers. He was then traded again in an offseason trade to the Cubs as part of a large package of players that brought back both Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini.
Following his aforementioned disastrous 2021 season, Davies was looking for a prove-it contract and managed to find it with Hazen and the D-Backs. Even still, while Davies was able to regain his durability in 2022, he struggled to find the same kind of consistency in his actual performance from 2019. So what happened? Put simply, Davies struggled to put batters away in 2022 and instead became a flyball pitcher, which resulted in an increase of his slugging against while his chase rate and Whiff% regressed. Unfortunately, as the D-Backs continue to debut some talented youngsters in the rotation including Ryne Nelson and Drey Jameson, Davies’ spot on the roster no longer made as much sense, though the decision on the mutual option was formally the player's. I wish him the best as he clearly still has the talent to cover some innings and be a major league starting pitcher.