With all of the roster shuffling that has gone on the past two months for the Baltimore Orioles, there is one name fans should know who has not gotten his shot at the Majors — Zach Davies. Standing 6′-0″ tall and generously listed at 150 pounds, the 22-year-old right-hander does not cut an imposing figure on the mound. To be honest, he looks like he would have fit right in on my Division I men’s cross country team at Lafayette College.
Davies has the type of body that scares scouts, and as a result, he fell all the way to the 26th round. That could prove to be a huge steal for the Orioles, who paid Davies a signing bonus of $575,000, the third-highest paid out by the club in 2011. It is clear the Orioles saw something in Davies given that signing bonus, and in four minor league seasons, he has not disappointed.
Davies has lowered his ERA at each stop along the minor league ladder. He has spent only one season at each level — low-A, high-A, AA, and now AAA. His 2015 season with the Norfolk Tides has been his best professional season to date. In 16 games this year, Davies has a 2.70 ERA and has struck out 8.0 per nine. He has walked 3.3 per nine if you want to find something to quibble about, but that rate is not astronomical, and the rise from his career averages is likely due to the fact that he is facing more disciplined hitters at this advanced level of minor league baseball. For his efforts this season, Davies has been named to Team USA’s roster in the Futures Game.
The best pitch that Davies has going for himself is his changeup. His fastball will struggle to creep above 90, but the changeup, which he throws frequently, and with good command is a quality pitch. Davies has been throwing the change since high school, an age at which most young pitchers just want to rear back and throw as hard as they possibly can. The changeup often gets overlooked when developing a young pitcher’s arsenal, but for Davies, it has turned into his most valuable pitch. His slider and curveball will continue to develop.
Davies is ready for the Majors now, in what capacity remains to be determined. He could be called upon for a spot start, but a case could also be made for giving him a few innings out of the bullpen. If T.J. McFarland, Tyler Wilson, Oliver Drake, and Mychal Givens have been given an opportunity to show what they can do out of the bullpen, surely Davies deserves the same shot. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes teams begin to shy away from players like Davies the closer they get to the big leagues.
Despite the fact that Davies has only made 10 appearances out of the bullpen in his minor league career, his abilities do project well as a reliever. He does not walk many, has a good strikeout rate, and is not prone to the home run ball. In 456.1 career innings, he has allowed only 31 home runs.
The Orioles lost two very winnable games to the Minnesota Twins this week due to a shaky bullpen. Tommy Hunter and Bud Norris combined to give up three home runs that ultimately led to Twins’ victories. Hunter allowed a walk-off to Brian Dozier in extra innings, while Norris allowed back-to-back home runs that turned a 1-0 lead into a 3-1 deficit. Hunter and Norris have both performed miserably this season, and the Orioles may be looking to replace one or both in the near future. Davies should be a candidate to fill either opening.
The Orioles may have unearthed a real gem in the 26th round in Zach Davies. The club has had success with softer-tossing right-handers like Miguel Gonzalez. If spots in the rotation clear after free agency this winter, Davies may be able to win one. As far as this year goes, when active rosters expand to 40 men, expect Zach Davies to earn his first callup to the Major Leagues. He is ready and has more than earned it.