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When Should the Rays Promote Wade Davis?

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via <a href="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/si/2009/writers/mark_bechtel/03/06/rays.postcard/wade-davis.jpg">Sports Illustrated</a>
via Sports Illustrated

Let's talk about Wade Davis.

He's the 6'5" righty who the Rays have chosen against dealing the past two deadlines. A lot of us saw him in spring dismantle the New York Yankees million-dollar militia in quick fashion which cranked the hype meter up to 11.

Up until his 13 strikeout game against Toledo in early June, Davis had struck out a little over 15% of batters faced and walked 11.6%. Not including that game, Davis has upped his strikeout rate to 23.3% since and lowered his walk rate to 9.1%. Conveniently these stretches are 10 games apiece, with the 13 strikeout game in the middle. Maybe something changed or clicked, but Davis has looked like a top of the line pitching prospect since the beginning of June.

Davis is generating 9% swinging strikes to date, which is good for 27th in the IL amongst qualified starters. That's not overly impressive and places him in a pack with Jon Niese, Ken Ray, and Tony Armas Jr. The top 10 look as such:

David Hernandez

Tommy Hanson

Clay Buchholz

Lucas French

Charlie Morton

Chris Tillman

Ben Jukich

Jake Arrieta

Carlos Carrasco

Tom Gorzelanny

Ideally Davis would be in that range given his stuff. He throws a four-seam fastball that sits in the mid-90s but can touch 96/97, a two-seam fastball that sits in the low-90s, a really good curve, an okay change, and an unrefined cutter; he still needs to work on a pitch to consistently get lefties out. That arsenal combined with his frame make for some Gil Meche comparisons. Hey, if Davis wants to turn into a 4-5 win pitcher, fine by me, but be a little quicker than Meche was about it, okay?

The question for the rest of this season is when Davis will make his majors debut. Odds are he'll fill a role similar to David Price's last season. Someone who comes up originally in long relief, makes a spot start or two, then heads into next spring and theoretically competes for a rotation spot next spring.

Frankly the Rays could appease everyone by simply calling him up and proclaiming him Joba Chamberlain 2009, but as I talked about a few days ago, a really good reliever makes very little difference this season. Factor in loss development time (service time is irrelevant now, ~60-70 days keeps him within the six-year-range and allows for him to come up relatively early next year if the Rays want less than a year of time entering his first full rotation season), and the cost/benefit just doesn't add up. Calling Davis up and placing him in the rotation doesn't make sense either. Entering the season ZiPS projected him at a 4.88 FIP and CHONE at 5.28. He's no better than David Price, Jeff Niemann, or even Andy Sonnanstine right now.

Taking all of this into consideration, it seems as if the best route is the predicted route; simply letting him work in Durham through the International League playoffs then joining the major league team from mid-September on.

Note: This was obviously written before tonight's start and pushed to tonight because, oopsies, forgot tomorrow was a noon game.