The Dodgers surprised onlookers when they not only selected Brendon Davis in the fifth round of the 2015 draft, but signed him to an above-slot deal to buy out his commitment to Cal State Fullerton. It wasn’t that Davis wasn’t deserving of being selected in the fifth round but paid like a higher-round pick, but Davis had been shelved for most of the spring with a fractured wrist, limiting the looks he could give scouts. Davis healed up enough to serve a shift in the Arizona Rookie League, but repeating short season might be in the cards for a player a who has tremendous talent but a significant amount of growing left.
When healthy, Davis is a unique blend of present baseball skills and significant upside. The biggest upside will come with physical development, as Davis is a listed 6’4 155 lbs. Davis has an extremely lean and lanky frame, but controls his long limbs well. He will have to fill out some to have the strength to not only drive the ball consistently, but hold up over a full season. I don't, however, foresee significant bulk, with a build reminiscent to me of Dexter Fowler.
While he’s not quite in Fowler’s class as an athlete, he’s quite good for his size. Davis plays shortstop for now and moves at the position much better than you’d expect from a 6’4 or 6’5 player. He’s expected to ultimately move to third base, and I would agree that the hot corner would best fit his future skill set. He’s not particularly quick twitched and he is a slightly below-average runner.
Defensively, Davis already displays above-average footwork, soft hands, and a decent throwing arm. He covers ground with his long strides, though he’s not especially quick. Like Corey Seager at this stage, Davis' body control is quite impressive for his size, and he should be able to handle shortstop for a few seasons before kicking over to third. His arm strength works at either position now, but should only improves as he gets stronger.
The offensive profile might be the most appealing part of Davis’ game. Davis shows excellent barrel control and a contact oriented approach to hit for solid average. His swing plane is mostly level and he will hit to both sides of the field. As he gets stronger, he should see even more success with his line drive approach from gap to gap.
The missing strength, however, is his biggest weakness on offense right now. Despite being 6’4 with a chance for plus leverage at the plate, Davis hit for almost no power in his first season, and had trouble elevating the ball in general. Part of this can be blamed on a wrist injury that likely sapped any present power he had. Swing-wise, though, he only shows a chance for power when he can extend his arms in a buggy-whip action for pull power.
The question with Davis is just how much strength and power he will develop. As mentioned, he has a slender frame that might expand to 175-185 lbs. in time, but doesn’t look suited for much muscle mass. Between strength and a few tweaks to his swing to increase his leverage and loft, and he might become a 15-20-homer hitter at peak. Of course at his age, the sky’s the limit developmentally, so take this projection with a grain of salt.
This in lies the problem with trying to peg Davis’s future. He has so much physical development left to do that we won’t know just what he’s capable of producing until he starts getting stronger and moves further away from the wrist injury. He’s rated as high as he is because the present skills he has (hitting, infield defense) aren’t easy to find and especially rare for his size. His stock is rather volatile he has enough ability to become a top five prospect in this system, but also a fairly wide possibility of outcomes and a fairly low floor (both his risk and ceiling were scored conservatively).
Davis is young enough that he might open the next season in the Pioneer League. A harsh hitting environment like Great Lakes might be too great an assignment for his present hitting tools and strength. He’s not as raw as the teenagers ranked behind him, and he will likely breakout as he fills out. If the strength doesn’t come, though, Davis’ floor of an empty, singles-hitting third baseman won’t have much utility for the Dodgers. Still, he’s a worthy upside gamble with a potentially huge payoff, just don’t expect an immediate breakthrough on the offense.
2016 prospect rankings
Note: Kyle Jensen was No. 53 but is no longer in the organization and was removed.