Erik Davis: Sleeper Prospect or Non-Prospect?

In the 13th round of the 2008 draft, the Padres selected big Stanford University righthander Erik Davis. A senior with an ERA near 5.00, Davis wasn’t considered more than a depth prospect.

One year later, Davis is seen by some as one of San Diego’s more prized prospects, largely due to a 16-win season as a swingman for Low-A Fort Wayne.

Those who consider Davis a good prospect based on his win total generally meet with backlash from saber types, who see Davis’ win total, ignore it, and see a 22-year-old guy in Low-A that doesn’t merit much attention.

What is the truth?

Davis is exactly the sort of polished college pitcher who succeeds in Low-A at age 22. He doesn’t throw hard or have a plus offspeed pitch, but he has strong command and keeps the ball down. He also is renowned for his drive, tenacity, and cerebral approach–the last being expected of a Stanford grad.

Still, Davis couldn’t even crack a 2.5 K/BB ratio even at his low level of competition. He didn’t have the sort of dominance as, say, the Giants’ Eric Surkamp, who posted a 169/39 K/BB ratio at Low-A. Davis’ was 106/44. Surkamp is a legitimate prospect; Davis is not.

All that said, Davis’ intelligent approach and good sinking fastball could lead to a career as a fifth starter or middle reliever. At 23 and just hitting High-A this year, he can’t afford to struggle with his modest assortment of pitches.

He’s a modestly interesting guy to watch, but definitely don’t get carried away because he won 16 games.

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