Wade Davis was selected by the then-Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the third round of the 2004 First-Year Draft out of Lake Wales High School in Florida.
Davis, 22, has come along way since then, forming one of the top pitching duos in the minors alongside left-handed Jake McGee. In fact, the two top prospects are frequently mentioned as a pair, because they have risen through the Rays’ system together as teammates since they were each selected back in ’04.
That took a turn for the worse this spring, however, as McGee tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow and is out indefinitely. Davis, on the other hand, continued to impress in the Southern League before his recent promotion to Triple-A Durham.
The 6-foot-5 right-hander made his mark in the professional ranks in the Midwest League back in 2006, posting a 3.02 ERA, 165-to-64 K/W ratio and 1.29 WHIP for Southwest Michigan. He even tossed a complete game, seven-inning no-hitter and finished second in the league, behind McGee, in strikeouts. Since then, he has been considered one of the flagship pitching prospects in the deep Tampa Bay farm system, as his mid-90s fastball and improving curveball left scouts drooling at times.
Davis' next stop took him to the Florida State League, where he went 3-0 with a 1.84 ERA, 88-to-21 K/W ratio and sub-1.00 WHIP (0.96) in 13 starts for the Vero Beach Devil Rays to begin the 2007 season. Again pitching alongside Davis in one of the circuit’s strongest starting rotations—as was the case in Michigan the summer before—he was named FSL Pitcher of the Week three different times and was elected to the league All-Star team.
Davis then forced a promotion to Double-A, where he made the transition with ease. He continued to make strides with his improving command while looking comfortable against older, advanced hitters to turn into a force at the top of the Biscuits’ staff. He finished 7-3 with a 3.15 ERA and 81-to-30 K/W ratio in 14 starts down the stretch to help push his club into the postseason.
Overall, Davis ended up 10-3 with a 2.50 ERA and 169-to-51 K/W ratio in 27 starts between the two levels, increasing his status as a prospect. In fact, while many analysts and scouts differ over who is the better long-term prospect, he was featured in nearly every prospect publication’s Top 20 prospect list, including Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, Milb.com and Scout.com.
Davis, who began the season back in Montgomery, has lived up to the hype yet again. He was elected to the Southern League All-Star team two weeks ago after a nice first half, finishing his stay as a Biscuit with a 9-6 record, 3.85 ERA and 81-to-42 K/W ratio in 19 starts. The organization, which generally takes its time grooming young arms, was curious to see how he well he could handle Triple-A, promoting him a few days later.
On July 20, he made his International League debut—an impressive one at that— tossing seven shutout innings while consistently sitting around 95 with his heater. He struck out six while surrendering only three hits to earn his first win with the Bulls. He won his next outing as well, allowing three earned runs in six solid innings on July 25. The former third-rounder, 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA and 12-to-6 K/W ratio at Durham, is 11-6 with a 3.65 ERA in 21 total starts this year.
Davis’ name has shown up in numerous trade rumors lately, but has remained focused on his pitching and has continued to shine. The Colorado Rockies turned off the Rays in the Brian Fuentes talks by asking for him or Montgomery right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, a ridiculous asking price for a brief rental of only a decent reliever. He has also recently been linked to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are reportedly asking for him in a deal for outfielder Jason Bay. As is the case with David Price, though, he is untouchable in the eyes of Tampa Bay Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman.
Davis, who has the potential to turn into a front-line starter in this league for years to come, will perhaps compete for a rotation spot in spring training next March. So, the short- and long-term consequences of dealing him for a rental—even Bay, who would not become a free agent until the end of ’09—are too severe, and he will not get shipped.
In addition to his mid-90s fastball and hard hammer, Davis has been working hard to continue the development of a changeup and cutter, which he has made tremendous strides with and have the chance to turn into plus pitchers for him. With his size and dominant stuff, it is not hard to picture him pitching at Tropicana Field in the near future. Thus, as far as the trade talks, Davis is untouchable.
To reach Tyler Hissey, send an email to TylerHissey@gmail.com.