Davis makes most of chance to start with HR

July 25th, 2020

It only took Jaylin Davis one at-bat to show why the Giants are so excited about the 26-year-old outfield prospect. 

After earning his first start of the regular season in right field, Davis led off the third inning with a homer off right-hander Ross Stripling, accounting for the lone run of the Giants’ 9-1 loss to the Dodgers on Friday night at Dodger Stadium. 

Davis drove a 2-2 fastball from Stripling out to right field for an opposite-field blast that traveled a projected 374 feet, according to Statcast. It was the Giants’ first home run -- and extra-base hit -- of the 2020 season. 

“He has amazing power,” third baseman Wilmer Flores said. “We saw it today with the opposite-field homer. Hopefully he hits more of those. He’s got amazing pop.”

Davis’ second career Major League home run stood as perhaps the only bright spot for the Giants, who have been outscored 17-2 in their first two losses of the season. For the second consecutive night, they looked overmatched against the Dodgers, who put at least one runner on base in every inning and scored in every frame except the third.

Left-hander started Friday’s game in his Giants debut, but he couldn’t get out of the second inning, surrendering two runs, including the first of two homers by Max Muncy, and walking three. Another projected starter, right-hander , entered the game in the third and served as the Giants’ bulk-inning pitcher, yielding three runs (two earned) over four innings. San Francisco’s defense also committed four errors.

“I think the most frustrating thing is that just from an all-around perspective, we didn't execute,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We didn't throw enough strikes. We didn't play enough [defense]. We didn't see enough pitches. We just didn't execute from any angle today.”

Kapler said he didn’t see this level of sloppiness from the Giants during their three-week training camp, but he expressed confidence that the club will be able to recover from the rough start.

“I don't think that anybody is panicking over one game, two games,” Kapler said. “We could very easily turn this around and get right back on track and stay calm. We're going to stay measured. We're going to stay focused and intense. We're going to be just fine.”

While the 60-game season and expanded playoffs could give the Giants a better chance at surprising this year, their success will primarily be judged by gains in player development and their ability to identify players who could be long-term contributors for the franchise.

Young players like Davis, who is ranked the Giants’ No. 13 prospect by MLB Pipeline, are expected to receive plenty of runway this season as the club enters another transitional year under president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, general manager Scott Harris and Kapler.

The Giants have more-established right-handed-hitting outfielders on their 30-man roster, including Austin Slater, Darin Ruf and Hunter Pence, but Kapler said he thought Davis would be a good matchup for Stripling due to his history of reverse splits.

Davis, who was one of three players acquired from the Twins for reliever Sam Dyson at last year’s Trade Deadline, posted a 1.197 OPS against righties over 41 games at Triple-A Rochester in 2019, compared to an .813 OPS against lefties.

“He has the engine and the capability to be an everyday outfielder,” Kapler said. “He can drive a baseball anywhere on the field with authority. His bat speed is elite. His foot speed is elite. He has a cannon, and what Jaylin needs most, more than anything else, is consistent confidence.”

Davis launched 35 home runs over 126 games in the Minors last year, but his prodigious power didn’t immediately translate to the big leagues. After making his Major League debut with the Giants in September, Davis went 7-for-42 (.167) with 11 strikeouts over 17 games. His lone home run came on Sept. 25, when he crushed a walk-off blast against the Rockies.

While he has immense potential, the challenge for Davis will be to cut down on strikeouts and make enough contact to harness his power. Kapler praised Davis for the quality of his three at-bats on Friday and said he’s intent on giving the young slugger an opportunity to continue to build on those results this weekend.

“I do think we're going to see Jaylin in one of the next two games, at minimum,” Kapler said. ”We’re looking forward to letting him keep that momentum going because we really did believe -- and continue to believe -- that this is a confidence thing for Jaylin, and we want to keep that going.”