GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- As part of MLBPipeline.com's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities this month, we will be sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At Reds camp, it was No. 12 prospect Rookie Davis. Some teams liked Davis more as a power-hitting first-base
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- As part of MLBPipeline.com's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities this month, we will be sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At Reds camp, it was No. 12 prospect Rookie Davis.
Some teams liked Davis more as a power-hitting first-base prospect in high school, though more clubs preferred him as a right-handed pitcher, and the Yankees kept him on the mound after signing him for $550,000 as a 14th-rounder in 2011. They developed him slowly but began to take the reins off him last year, when he reached Double-A Trenton in August at age 22. Four months later, he was the headline prospect in the four-player package New York sent to the Reds for Aroldis Chapman.
MLBPipeline.com: It seems like a lot of two-way prospects in the Draft prefer playing every day to pitching once or twice a week, and they use their leverage to get their way. Did you consider doing that? How much do you miss hitting?
Davis: It was tough because I had always hit. It was hard giving up playing every day. But I looked at it honestly and from the perspective I have now, see what position players have to do, the treatment they take to stay on the field, it wears you down quickly. Pitching is a better fit for me. And now that I'm in the National League, I get to hit again. The Yankees didn't offer me a choice. I had calls during the Draft as a hitter that I turned down for different reasons. Some of the clubs did say they wanted me as a corner outfielder or first baseman, others said only as a pitcher, some others were on the fence. New York was strictly as a pitcher. When I signed with the Yankees, they said, "Don't pick up a bat."
MLB Pipeline Spring Training reports
MLBPipeline.com: What was the Draft experience like for you? You were considered a potential top-five-rounds pick but lasted until the 14th and got second-round money.
Davis: The hardest thing I ever did was answer my phone and say "No" during the Draft. I had some calls in the earlier rounds, fourth or fifth, and then in the eighth through 12th, a couple of calls per round. Everything I had been told was rounds two through six. You sit there and get calls but the money doesn't line up. I was going to go to East Carolina. Then I got a call from [Yankees area scout] Scott Lovekamp telling me they were going to take me with their next pick and we'd figure out the money.
MLBPipeline.com: Scouts say that two-way players who become full-time pitchers often make a huge leap when they focus their efforts solely on the mound. Do you feel that has been true with you? How much better are you now than you were in high school?
Davis: Oh my god, it's night and day, honestly. When I signed, I was throwing 88-92 [mph] with no changeup whatsoever and loopy breaking ball at 70-73. [He now works with a 92-96 mph fastball, a power curve and an improving changeup.] Honestly, it's pretty incredible to be able to trust my pitches and repeat my mechanics. I got stronger, trimmed some baby fat off. It's a process. Once I put the bat down, I saw a jump in just two years. I'm confident where I am now with my mechanics so I'm able to make adjustments and pick up on things quicker. I didn't know how to sequence pitches or read swings until last year. Eddy Rodriguez, my catcher in Double-A last year, taught me a lot in just a month: how to sequence, how to read swings, how to read foul balls.
MLBPipeline.com: How did you find out you had been included in the Aroldis Chapman trade? What was your reaction?
Davis: I was sitting in an auto shop getting steps put on my truck. My parents had given them to me for Christmas and it was Dec. 28. I got a call on my cell from an unknown number and it was [Yankees GM] Brian Cashman. He talked to me for a couple minutes and then told me, "I just traded you to the Cincinnati Reds." I was like, "What?!?" It was hectic for the first 24 hours. A lot of friends were texting and calling. Once I was able to get over that, I was able to buy into what we're doing here. People should be excited about what's going on with the Reds. I've been here for a month and a half, and I fit right in. There's a sense of being part of something bigger than yourself. It drives you. I'm fighting with a group of guys who want to win the World Series. It's fun.
MLBPipeline.com: How did you get the nickname "Rookie"? Do your teammates give you grief for your name and for growing up on a street called Baseball Lane?
Davis: I was third generation in my family with the same name [William Theron Davis] and my dad was a big fan of baseball and he said, "Just call him 'Rookie.'" It plays now. We'll see how it works in 10-15 years. When I was in big league camp, they did have fun with it. Our street was renamed after me and my sister were born. There was a baseball park that my dad created, so it became Baseball Lane. When I filled out my MLBPA information card, Jay Bruce and Joey Votto found out and teased me about it.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.