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Prospect Smackdown: Wade Davis vs. Jacob McGee

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Prospect Smackdown: Wade Davis vs. Jacob McGee

BACKGROUND and INTANGIBLES
Davis: Wade Davis was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the third round in 2004, out of high school in Lake Wales, Florida. He could have gone as high as the second round, but most team thought he was set on attending college at the University of Florida. The home state D-Rays drafted him anyway and got him to sign. Davis is considered to be intelligent and confident on the mound, although he will occasionally overthrow and lose concentration.
McGee: Jacob McGee was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the fifth round of the 2004 draft, out of high school in Sparks, Nevada. He was more projectable than polished when drafted, considered bright but in need of greater self-confidence on the mound. He's improved this considerably and has shown good mound presence in the Midwest League this year according to scouts.
Advantage: Davis had a higher profile as an amateur, but McGee is doing a good job developing his potential as a pro. Both of them have had some bouts of emotional immaturity, Davis losing concentration and McGee lacking confidence, but both of them have made major strides growing up over the last two years. This looks pretty even to me.

PHYSICALITY and TOOLS
Davis: Davis is a big guy at 6-5, 225 pounds, with good athletic ability although he might have to watch his weight a little as he gets older. His fastball has been timed as high as 98 MPH, usually working at 91-94. He also has a curveball and a slider, but is still working on his changeup. He had some problems with consistency of his secondary pitches in the second half of the season this year; early in the year he was locked in but some mid-summer fatigue seemed to harm his command in June and July, although he was back to normal in August. He has everything physically needed to be a dominant pitcher if he stays healthy.
McGee : McGee was just 6-3, 180 pounds when drafted but is up to 6-4, 200 now, adding muscle and strength in the classic "projectable lefty" way. His fastball has improved along with his size, from 86-89 in 2004 to 88-91 in 2005, to 90-94 this year. His curveball is outstanding, a plus major league pitch right now. He's also made strides with his changeup, but it still needs some work. Like Davis, McGee didn't pitch quite as well in the second half of the season as in the first, probably due to fatigue, although his component rates remained strong.
Advantage: Davis has higher peak velocity than McGee, but McGee has crept up on him and some scouts say he threw consistently harder than Davis this summer, especially in the hot months. A year ago Davis was the winner here, but his edge has eroded. It's probably a tie now, and depending on what day you saw them McGee might be a bit ahead.

PERFORMANCE and SKILLS
Davis: Davis went 7-12, 3.02 in 27 starts for Southwest Michigan this year, with a 165/.64 K/BB in 146 innings. He held hitters to a .234 average and gave up just five homers. His GO/FO ratio was about 1.20. Although he has good pitching instincts in general terms, he is still working out the difference between being a thrower and being a pitcher. His command still needs work as well.
McGee: McGee went 7-9, 2.96 this year in 26 starts for Southwest Michigan, with a 171/65 K/BB in 134 innings. He held hitters to a .211 average. Although he gave up just seven homers, his GO/FO ratio shows him with a ratio around 1.0. He has good pitchability and pitching skill, changing speeds well with his fastball and curve, although he still needs to improve his overall command.
Advantage: Very close! Similar numbers for the same team at the same level. McGee's K/BB and K/IP ratios are slightly better than Davis', and he was a bit more difficult to hit. But Davis has stronger ground ball tendencies. Both of them still need to improve their command. I'm going to give McGee a slight edge here but it is very close.

PROJECTION
Davis: Davis still has a bit of projectability left but his velocity is unlikely to increase from where it is currently. He was born September 7, 1985, so he just turned 21 today. Continued progress with his control could make him a dominant force.
McGee: McGee has a bit more physical projectability left in his body than Davis, but in absolute terms his overall physical maximum velocity potential is possibly less. He was born August 6, 1986, so he is almost a year younger than Davis and pitched most of 2006 at the age of 19.
Advantage: McGee is younger so technically he has more projection. He also improved more than Davis this year.

SUMMARY
I rate them as even in background and intangibles. Davis was ahead in physical tools at the beginning of the season, but McGee has probably caught up with him, and McGee has slight edges in current performance and projection. Overall they are both Grade B+ prospects, and frankly I'm not sure which one I like better. They both seem like studs to me. They both need to throw more strikes and cut their walk rates as they move up. It will be very, very interesting to see which one adjusts more quickly to higher levels. McGee is a bit better overall I'd say.