Wednesday, November 24, 2004

J.J. Davis, Perhaps for the Last Time

Well, maybe not. It's entirely possible that Davis could put up a string of productive seasons for some other team, then block a prospect by rejoining the Pirates as a free agent when he's 35.

Barring that, this could be it. He's gone, and some team is going to claim him, because as Rotoworld explains, he'd be a good pickup for just about anyone.

Anyway, here's a quote from today's Paul Meyer:

Then, because he was a No. 1 pick, the Pirates continued to give him chances. Had he been a lower pick, Davis would have been gone a few years ago. Anyway, the Pirates kept him and then continued to keep him because they didn't want to concede they'd wasted a first-round pick. Last spring, I think the Pirates knew they should put Davis on waivers. If he cleared, he'd have gone to Nashville. If some team claimed him, fine, and let's move on. It was a mistake to keep Davis on the 40-man roster last winter. It was a mistake to put him on the 25-man roster when the season began. It was a mistake to keep him on the 25-man roster when it was way apparent he couldn't play in the major leagues.

95% of that is preposterous.

Had he been a lower pick, Davis would have been gone a few years ago.

Oh, really? That's interesting, because lots of lower picks have showed far less promise than Davis and not been cut. "A few years ago," Davis was in his early 20s. Here's what he did:

1999 Age 20 Class A Hickory:
317 AB .265 BA 44 BB 26 2B 19 HR .533 SLG

That's a superb season for a 20 year old at that level.

2000 Age 21 Class A+ Lynchburg:
485 AB .243 BA 52 BB 36 2B 20 HR .445 SLG

Yep, that's a still a prospect. Davis showed excellent power for a 21 year old in a pitchers' league.

He wasn't great the following year:

2001 Age 22 Class AA Altoona
228 AB .250 BA 21 BB 13 2B 3 3B 4 HR .386 SLG

But Davis then returned to prospect status with his performances in AA and AAA the next two years.

Looking over Davis' performance record from 1999 to 2003, I see one pretty bad year and four very good ones. I see no indication that the Pirates were showing any extra patience with him because he was a top pick.

Davis had his only bad year in 2001, when he was in AA. Rob Mackowiak (chosen in the 53rd round) and Carlos Rivera, both of whom eventually made it to Pittsburgh, hadn't even gotten to AA when they were 22. In fact, Rivera drew six walks and hit five homers in 233 at bats at Lynchburg in 2000 when he was 22, and he didn't get cut. The Pirates may have been frustrated with Davis because he struck out a lot, but he was clearly a very good prospect, not someone you keep around just to avoid admitting you made a bad draft pick.

My opinions about Davis should be well known to regular readers, so I won't rehash them here. I'll just say that they're pretty different from Meyer's. There is, however, something I agree with in that paragraph up there:

It was a mistake to keep Davis on the 40-man roster last winter.

Well, actually, I don't agree with that, but given the Pirates' behavior since keeping Davis last November, I share Meyer's exasperation. The Pirates gave Davis less than 40 major league at bats even though he hit very well in AAA in 2003, hit well in 2004 Spring Training, and hit well on "rehab" AAA in 2004. Then Davis went nuts again this month in the Mexican Pacific League. Then, the Pirates removed him from the 2004 roster. Meanwhile, we still don't have Chris Shelton. If the Pirates had no intention of allowing Davis to develop, why did they keep him on the roster in the first place?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree. they should've cut him or traded him last year and made room to keep Shelton on the roster since they had no intention of using him anyway. the fact that they couldn't even trade him at any point during this season is also pretty stupid. oh well. Maybe Davis will pan out for someone else. I don't think he will, but you never know. He has good tools, but I just think he doesn't have "baseball smarts." If he can ever figure out the baseball smarts, like how to run the bases and field, then maybe he has a chance. But it takes hard work to get better. Maybe the Bucs were frustrated because he never seemed like he wanted to put in the hard work needed to go from being a prospect to the real thing.

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