A title becomes closely associated with you identity. It becomes emblematic of your thoughts, ideas, hobbies, and pursuits. Each person finds status in the moniker, fearing any deviation from stature, self-conscious of image. The same situation applies to the multifaceted structure of Corporate America with a slew of presidents, CEOs, and varying degrees of management. Professional baseball has its own level of designations, usually based on service or performance. MVP, Quad A, and Cy Young winners are examples of the typical nomenclature and the importance bestowed upon each player. A rookie is typically the lowest classification and one each player holds until they garner either 130 at bats or 50 innings pitched in the major leagues. Rookie Davis, the Yankees number 12 prospect according to MLB.com, will continue to live up to that name, even after being called up to AA Trenton.
William Theron Davis III, a native of North Carolina, witnessed the unique greatness of baseball, sitting as a spectator at Camden Yards as two-year old on September 6th, 1995. The evening, best remembered for Cal Ripken Jr. breaking Lou Gehrig‘s consecutive games streak, bred the next generation of fans and future draft picks. Davis would eventually embark on a storied career at Dixon High School in North Carolina where he struck out 130 batters in 61.1 innings during his senior season and his #24 jersey retired by the school. Following graduation, Davis appeared ready to attend to attend East Carolina after signing a letter of intent, but a $550,000 signing bonus by the New York Yankees after being taken in the 14th round of the 2011 draft changed those plans. The Yankees also offered to pay for his college education once his career comes to a close. “It seemed to be a good fit for me”, Davis said. “East Carolina is a good baseball school and a few different factors played into that. My sister attends college in East Carolina, but I saw that it was the opportunity to take and luckily I have been blessed to be lucky enough to be with good people and surround myself with the right people.”
Like most Yankees prospects, Davis opened his career in the Gulf Coast League, pitching 17 innings, before a devastating virus caused him to lose thirty pounds and nearly derail a promising career. “The way I can describe it was that it was a freak thing”, Davis said. “Maybe a little heat exhaustion. Then I got a virus which spread through my respiratory system. I lost thirty pounds in about ten days, but I got treatment in the offseason, took a couple of months off. I really gained my strength back and I have been 100 percent ever since.” After gradually regaining his strength by adjusting his eating habits and getting back into playing shape, Davis began the 2013 season with the short-season Staten Island Yankees, where he began to display his high school promise for manager Justin Pope. Davis earned New York-Penn League All-Star accolades and a midseason call up after compiling a 2.36 earned run average. “It all happened kind of fast, Davis explains. In 2012 I was playing in the Gulf Coast League with a chained link fence. Here you are playing with about 3000-7000 people watching you. We had a great group of guys in Staten Island. I am good friends with every one of them and it was a fun experience.”
As one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League, Davis once again experienced tremendous pressure and had difficulty adjusting for much of the 2014 season with the Charleston River Dogs. In a span of 25 starts, Davis compiled a 4.93 earned run average, surrendering 134 hits in 126 innings pitched. “It was a growing year,” Davis elaborated. “I had some ups and downs that I battled. Obviously the numbers weren’t what everyone projected them to be or what I wanted them to be but during the course of the season last year I had to learn that while you want to have good numbers and you’re expected to put them up, minor league baseball is more about development, and seeing how you’ve continued to grow”. (Scout.com). Faced with a crossroads after a largely disappointing year statistically, Davis entered the 2015 season at High-A Tampa under the watch of pitching coach Tommy Phelps and regained his form, harkening back memories of his offseason prior to joining Staten Island. Though his ERA dropped by a full run, Davis’s most impressive improvements were made with his command. In 97.1 innings pitched, Davis walked just 18 batters, while fanning 105 and nearly equaling his 2014 output. A 5.83 strikeout to walk ratio underscored added credence to those gains and established him as one of the most formidable hurlers in the Florida State League.
Recently promoted to Yankees Double-A affiliate in Trenton, Davis joins a burgeoning Thunder rotation featuring Eric Ruth and Caleb Smith. Trenton’s track record of producing quality starting pitching was bolstered this season with the promotions of Brady Lail, Nick Goody, Danny Burwara, and Luis Severino to Triple-A Scranton, with the latter three seeing brief time in the Bronx with the New York Yankees. At six foot three and 230 pounds, Davis has the physical characteristics associated with a top pitching prospect. Davis features a four seam fastball clocked between 94 and 96 miles per hour, an uptick from his velocity early in professional career. Mixing in a two seam fastball of late, Davis is beginning to generate sinking action, leading to an increased amount of ground balls and a better economy of pitches. His changeup and curveball have been described as average offerings by scouts and are aspects of his arsenal he continues to refine at the minor league level. “I am definitely working on my secondary pitches”, Davis said. “I have been able to command my fastball. I am getting to where I need to throw a curveball for a strike, a changeup for a strike, early in the count and control my stuff better than I have, while being able to able to have success commanding the fastball early and expanding the zone late with my secondary stuff.”
After years of diminished returns out of the farm system, the Yankees are gradually developing pitchers with a prospective future in the major leagues. After a myriad of peak and valleys, Davis is quickly emerging as arguably the most underrated pitching prospect in the Yankees system. Refinements to his repertoire along with stellar makeup puts Davis two levels away from joining his Trenton alumni, just 76 miles away from Arm & Hammer Park and a quicker road to the Bronx than previously anticipated.