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Houston Astros prospect J.D. Davis: A player to watch

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Houston rookie stands out for power and his throwing arm, but where does he fit?

MLB: Texas Rangers at Houston Astros Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On August 5th the Houston Astros promoted prospect J.D. Davis to the major league roster. If J.D. Davis were in most farm systems, he would receive a lot more notice but the Astros lineup is loaded with talent and he’s had to fight for playing time.

Through 18 games and 54 at-bats he’s hitting .241/.300/.537 with a 118 wRC+. Although it is a small sample, that slash line is a fair assessment of Davis’ ability.

The Astros drafted Davis in the third round in 2014 from Cal State Fullerton. He hit .289/.370/.520 (wRC+140) with 26 homers in High-A in 2015, but that was at Lancaster in the California League; he also whiffed 157 times and needed to prove himself at higher levels.

His 2016 numbers with Double-A Corpus Christi were quite similar when context is considered: .270/.336/.488, wRC+134. Davis ranked 18th on the pre-season Houston Astros Top 20 prospects for 2017 list, with this rather brief comment:

18) J.D. Davis, 3B, Grade C+: Age 23, hit .268/.334/.485 with 23 homers, 45 walks, 143 strikeouts in 485 at-bats in Double-A; third round pick in 2014 from Cal State Fullerton; has made progress at third base but may ultimately fit best as 1B/DH type; power his best attribute but there are concerns that his swing gets too long and contact is obviously an issue; ETA 2018.

Davis returned to Double-A to open 2017, putting up a similar .279/.340/.510 mark through 87 games, wRC+135. He played 16 more games for Triple-A Fresno at .295/.370/.623, wRC+142, then arrived in the majors last month. Apply an MLE deflator to his minor league stat line and you can see that his major league .241/.300/.537 slash is very much within the realm of expectation.

Listed at 6-3, 225, Davis is a right-handed hitter born April 27, 1993. Assessing him is straightforward. He’s quite strong physically and the power is completely legitimate in my view. There’s some swing-and-miss in his game and he’s not the type to consistently hit for high averages, but he’s not hopeless with the strike zone and with more experience he should post adequate OBPs to go with the power.

Defensively, Davis draws praise for his very strong throwing arm. His range and reliability at third are nothing special but the arm makes up for some of that and is certainly fun to watch. He did show good reactions with this pick:

He’s seen a small amount of action at first base and the outfield corners but lack of speed makes him a tough fit in the outfield and the arm is somewhat wasted at first. Any versatility helps his chances, of course.

Speaking of versatility, Davis did some pitching in college and he looks good out there, pitching in two MLB games so far, hitting 91-92 and showing off some off-speed stuff:

Summing up, here we have a guy with good power who can play third base and first base and outfield in an emergency, and who can come out of the bullpen with legitimate stuff. In these days of small benches and huge pitching staffs, that’s a valuable asset. If the Astros can’t find room for Davis, someone will.