Milwaukee Brewers rookie right-hander Zach Davies made his first major league start of the 2016 season Sunday afternoon against the Pittsburgh Pirates. It did not go well: he gave up eight hits and five runs in 2.1 innings, walking three without fanning anyone in a 9-3 loss.
That was obviously ugly but more chances should come. Here's what to expect, for good and ill.
First, the basics, from the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:
Zach Davies, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-0 WT: 160 DOB: February 7, 1993
2012: Grade C; 2013: Grade C; 2014: Grade C+; 2015: Grade C+
The Brewers picked up Zach Davies from the Orioles last summer for Gerardo Parra. He fights skeptics due to his small frame and mediocre fastball: he tops out at 90 and usually works around 87-88. However, he locates the fastball well and it can play up due to the contrast with his excellent change-up. He also has a curveball in the 70s and a slider in the 80s but for the most part relies on the fastball and change. His strikeout rates haven’t been great since reaching the high minors but he’s remained effective and had some very good moments with the Brewers down the stretch, putting him firmly in the rotation mix for 2016. Most see him as a command-oriented inning-eater who will live on the margins. I agree with that, but even with that profile he can end up having a better career than a bunch of guys who throw much harder but don’t know how to pitch. Grade B-.
As noted, Davies put in some good work with the Brewers late last year following the trade with Baltimore, posting a 3.71 ERA in six starts with a 24/15 K/BB in 34 innings, not exceptional numbers but good enough to hold a job. He made two starts for Triple-A Colorado Springs this month before moving back up to Milwaukee, posting an 11/2 K/BB in nine total innings, giving up a pair of runs on six hits. Davies performed well in Triple-A last year so he doesn't have much left to learn in the minors.
Can the Brewers expect more than what he showed yesterday?
I think so. General commentary about yesterday's game indicates that the Pirates didn't exactly hit him hard and he was victimized by some weakish hits, but it also true that he walked three men in less than three innings and was having trouble locating his pitches. For a guy without premium velocity, any location mistakes invite trouble, both through free passes and in giving batters too many hittable pitches. Defense and luck can only do so much and Davies didn't help himself by missing his spots.
That said, he's already had tastes of success in the major leagues and one bad game doesn't kill his chances. His overall profile hasn't changed: he projects as a fourth/fifth starter due to his track record of strong command. Yesterday's trauma doesn't automatically mean that said command has vanished, but it does show what can happen when everything isn't right.
The Brewers need to run him out there at least a few more times and give him a chance to re-adjust.