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Is Wade Davis Ready For The Rays Rotation?

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WD-Day is coming. via <a href="http://cache.daylife.com/imageserve/05VddWI0BG6wO/520x.jpg">cache.daylife.com</a>
WD-Day is coming. via cache.daylife.com

At this point there is no correct answer to the question raised in the title of this article simply because we haven't seen Wade Davis pitch at this level. However, after Andy Sonnanstine's peformance Tuesday, the Rays have decided it's time to find out if he is. Davis has posted an FIP 3.81 so for this season for the Durham Bulls. Despite that number, anybody who thinks that Davis is going to walk in that door on Sunday and be a sub 4 FIP pitcher out of the gate is most likely going to end up disappointed.

Davis ranks 12th in the International League in swinging strike percentage amongst starters, however, he's in the top five in overall strikeouts with nearly 21% of at-bats ending in a K. Depending on where you get the numbers from, Davis is somewhere between 37-40% groundballs for the season. Our favorite guru, Rick Peterson, said the biggest evaluators of a starting pitcher are the ability to get swinging strikes and induce groundballs. If Davis can continue doing what he did at Durham this would definitely help in his transition to big league starter along with his mid 90s fastball and hammer curveball.

Davis, 23, has pitched 158.2 innings so far in Triple A this season. He pitched a combined 160.2 between Double-A and Durham last year. As a ball park figure, the Rays usually don't increase a young pitcher's inning total more than 20% year over year. This would put Davis's "limit" somewhere near ~195 innings. Assuming Davis takes a turn every five to six says until the end of the season we're looking at an addition 25-30 innings of work on top of the 158.2 he has so far. This would fall in line with the 20% increase. If we assume that Davis can be league average or so (4.5 FIP) thats about 14-16 expected earned runs over those innings. 

One would hope that two above average seasons in Durham means that he is as ready as he'll ever be to take the next step and be a key member of the rotation for years to come. Of course, many prospects have posted good numbers only to flame out at the top level. We don't know which path Davis' career will take, but we are about to start finding out.