Organization: San Francisco Giants || 2016 club: Augusta Green Jackets (A), San Jose Giants (A-Adv.)
Position: OF || Age: 23 || DOB: July 20, 1993 || Birthplace: Bellevue, WA
Acquired: 2014 MLB Draft (3rd rd., Oregon State) || 2016 prospect rank: SF #17 (MLB.com)
2016 stats: 126 games, 484 AB, .283/.356/.521/.877, 27 2B, 26 HR, 52 BB, 119 K, 4 SB
The San Francisco Giants’ third-round draft pick out of Oregon State in 2014, Dylan Davis pushed past two mediocre summers to open his pro career and enjoyed a breakout year in 2016, split almost exactly evenly between Low-A Augusta in the first half and High-A San Jose in the second half.
He spent 63 games at each stop in 2016, slashing .288/.368/.496 with 17 doubles and eight home runs in 236 South Atlantic League at-bats, and then followed up by totaling .278/.344/.544 with 10 doubles and 18 home runs in 248 California League at-bats through the Giants’ playoff push in mid-September. That good work earned him a mid-season All-Star nod representing Augusta in the South Atlantic League, and considering he turned 23 years old in mid-season, his success and promotion was likely perfect timing for the Pac-12 product, at least from the Giants’ perspective.
During his half-summer in the California League to finish 2016, Davis made a big impact; his 18 homers were good enough for eighth-best in the High-A circuit, despite the fact that he had hundreds fewer at-bats than any of the other top 13 homer hitters in the league. (The next fewest at-bats for a Cal League homer leader in 2016 was the Rangers’ Travis Demeritte, who slugged 25 homers—good enough for second in the league—on 331 at-bats before a midseason trade to the Atlanta Braves’ organization.)
That Davis did all this while playing in San Jose—and playing the majority of his games in and against San Jose’s Cal League North Division foes—is doubly a testament to his raw power potential. While some ballparks of the Cal League are absurdly offensively skewed (Lancaster, High Desert), they are home to South Division clubs that San Jose visited but once this summer. Davis did slug three home runs total in eight games on the road at those two jet-streamed ballparks, but his other 15 came at his fair home park in San Jose, and on the road at other far more fair parks in Visalia, Modesto, Stockton, and even Bakersfield.
Beyond the home runs, a welcome addition to Davis’ game in 2016 proved to be patience and pitch recognition at the plate. Saddled with abysmal walk rates early in his pro career, Davis righted that ship in both Augusta and San Jose this summer, drawing 52 total walks (against 119 strikeouts) in his 126 minor league games. Thirty of those walks came in Augusta with the other 22 coming in San Jose, so it’s difficult to put them into combined context across leagues and levels, but had he more or less reached 50+ walks in the Cal League alone. That would’ve been good enough for top 15 on the circuit; similar rates extrapolated across a year in the South Atlantic League mean he likely would have been top 10.
Davis does, and is expected to do, pretty much exactly what was just teed up in the recap of his 2016 accomplishments: he’ll hit for power, and he’ll get on base by walking at a decent rate. His speed is non-existent, though to be fair to him, he’s at least a good enough athlete even without average speed that he can survive as a corner outfielder.
One would imagine he could also see repetitions at first base down the road if it means getting his bat into the lineup more. But it’s his power stroke that will allow him the opportunity to continue to play professional baseball. Everything from his physical build to his swing mechanics all hint at the notion that he could become a notable power hitter relatively soon.
Davis’ stance and approach at the plate is remarkably simple and quiet, starting from a dead stand still with a majority of his weight set back on his right leg. Rather than wave or even stay held up, his bat starts resting on his back shoulder, and that allows Davis’ quiet hands, which start right next to his ear, to get into hitting position quickly. With his hands starting so close to his head, though, and his bat starting in a rested position like that, Davis is prone to some mild bat wrap upon load, and that can lengthen his path to the ball and leave him late to certain pitches (especially hard stuff in on his hands) to his detriment.
All that said, he shows good bat speed, and his bat stays in the zone a long time; Davis also shows the ability to stay through the ball (in a way similar to San Jose teammate Jonah Arenado) as opposed to pulling off in an effort to pull everything to left field. That might hint that the Oregon State product is quickly figuring out what it takes to find consistent home run power.
Davis’ stance begins slightly open and, interestingly, slightly wider than most hitters relative to his height. A decently-sized leg kick shows inconsistent timing, however, and an inconsistent stride length can further leave him lunging and off-balance at times.
Looking at Davis’ 2016 hit spray chart, per MLBFarm.com, yields a mostly expected result:
Sure, most of his power is to his pull side, an unsurprising revelation for a power hitter of his ilk. But a few home runs and a few more doubles and triples to right field are an encouraging sign that, even with his sudden jump in home run power in 2016, Davis didn’t get away from using the entire field against better pitching in San Jose. That ought to bode well for his immediate future as he likely readies for Double-A pitching in the Eastern League in 2017.
Like any young player that has become a legitimate power threat by the time he graduates High-A ball, Davis’ future in the Giants’ organization is notable. His stocky body type is a bit of a concern, as he doesn’t appear to have the ability to add good weight as he ages, and yet he’s a very strong kid already who can only max out that raw power as he better learns his stroke against better pitching.
The proof is in the pudding, though, and for Davis that means a reputation built on his monster long ball summer in 2016 which ought to precede him to what will likely be an assignment to the Eastern League in ’17.
Beyond that, you’d be hard-pressed to find a big league team who isn’t one day in need of a power hitting fourth or fifth outfielder, which means Davis should feasibly find employment in pro ball for some time. His bat will dictate how much he can stay in a lineup; sustained, notable power should push him forward as an everyday left fielder, whereas an inconsistent stroke in the high minors could turn him into a utility outfield option one day.
He will likely never hit for average, though he’s also not a strikeout black hole (his strikeout rates are actually consistently declining as he is promoted levels). Unsurprisingly, Davis may one day fit best playing for an American League franchise so that he can DH daily and get his power bat in the lineup, exploiting what is by far his biggest strength that should only improve in time.