Draft dilemma: Davis to decide between MLB or Auburn
(Editor’s note: This is part 1 of a two-part story. For the conclusion of today’s story, see Saturday’s paper)
Life is said to be full of decisions and for recent T.R. Miller graduate Kevin Davis, some big decisions are for sure to be made in the coming days. Davis, an Auburn signee who recently came back from the Perfect Game Pre-Draft Showcase in Iowa and some recent bullpen sessions for two major league teams and is predicted to be a draft choice in the upcoming Major League Baseball draft, will have to make up his mind if he will sign with the team who drafts him or head off to the Plains in Auburn for college and to play baseball in the SEC.
The visit to Iowa for Davis put him in front of professional scouts for the first time since his senior season at T.R. Miller. Several scouts came to Brewton and other games this year that Davis started to see him pitch. While some were in attendance at his games this year, some saw the good side of Davis while some saw an uncharacteristic side of him due to a lingering blister problem on his throwing thumb to plagued him while throwing.
“I went up to Iowa and had a good time there,” Davis said. “The whole deal was to get in front of scouts and show that I was healthy and show that the blister problem had gone and healed itself. I got up there and had a great time. Overall, it was a good setting in itself. It was just an opportunity for everyone to get out in front of the scouts because it had been almost a month since I had thrown to a live batter in a high school game. I threw two good innings and gave up one little bloop hit. Overall in itself, it was a pretty good little deal.”
The 17th annual Perfect Game Pre-Draft Showcase was held at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Monday, May 13. The Pre-Draft Showcase is one of the longest running events in Perfect Game history, and is designed to give prospects even more exposure ahead of June’s MLB First-Year Player Draft. The Monday date won’t conflict with college games and ensures that scouting directors and cross-checkers are able to attend. LA Dodgers All Star outfielder Carl Crawford, Atlanta Braves All Star catcher Brian McCann, Chicago Cubs outfielder Ryan Sweeney, and Tampa Bay Rays starter and 2011 AL Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson are among the event’s most notable alumni.
The PG Pre-Draft Showcase is designed to give top high school and junior college prospects a final opportunity to perform in front of the scouting community before June’s MLB First-Year Player Draft. The showcase is always held on a Monday so as not to interfere with weekend college games, thus providing scouting directors and cross-checkers an event that won’t conflict with any others on their schedule.
Highly regarded prospects from nine states and Puerto Rico were in attendance along with three prospects from Venezuela and five others from Canada.
Davis said he heard a little feedback from people while in Iowa about his performance.
“Different people say different things,” he said. “People are discussing body types of players and other things. Once I got back, I went and threw for the Rangers and the Marlins in Atlanta. Those were about 30-pitch bullpen sessions and both of those went pretty good.”
According to Davis’ profile from the showcase, he threw a 90-92 MPH fastball with a curveball clocked at 79 and a changeup at 81. Although those speeds were lower compared to earlier speeds Davis has thrown, Davis said he was coming off a sickness.
“I threw around 90-93 MPH but I was not throwing as hard as I wanted to,” Davis said. “I had a shaky spring, but the whole time I was kind of upset with myself. When I got up there for the Perfect Game thing, I was taking horse pills from being sick and I got a shot before I left. I was not throwing as hard because I felt like I could not catch my breath. I had been up to 96 MPH earlier in the spring against Bayside Academy. There are some games when the ball just comes out and is really loose and there are other games where it does not.”
Davis went 3-2 this year for T.R. Miller in his senior season. The three wins came against Clarke County, Bayside and Cottage Hill while the two losses came to W.S. Neal. While the blister on his throwing thumb bothered him during the year, in his first outing of 2013 against W.S. Neal in the Escambia County Tournament in Flomaton, Davis said another area of his body bothered him that night.
“I had a really good high school career,” Davis said. “My senior year was not the senior year that I imagined or believed I was going to have. I had some things pop up. My first start against W.S. Neal, I pulled something in my chest. I told my dad in the bullpen that something bothered me and every time I breathed, it felt like something was stabbing me in my chest.”
Davis said he really did not know what it was, but he came back with some good outings after that.
“The first game it was cold and everything, but I came back against Clarke County and had a good start and threw a no-hitter on 82 pitches,” he said. “The next game against Bayside, I had a live fastball going from 93-95. Everything felt great. I had a two-hitter against Bayside. Then we faced W.S. Neal at home and I tore open a blister the second pitch of the game. I could not control it because I was throwing on raw meat and blood.”
Davis said in his last game against Cottage Hill, he was face with one or two possibilities.
“I could pitch with a bad blister on my finger or I could say I did not pitch my last high school game because of a blister,” Davis said. “So I figured I would go out there and do it. I think some of the scouts at that game had my velocity at 91-93 MPH. I was happy about that because if you looked at the way my blister was at that time, it was pretty good. Then when they had runners on base, they said it went to 93-94.”
While he suffered injuries his senior year, the bad turned into something good for Davis.
“It was something that I learned from and something that made me stronger,” he said. “When I went out against Cottage Hill, sure they were not as good as some we faced earlier, but when you get hurt like that, I just told myself I could go out there and win,” Davis said. “I had to get used to it and figure out how I was going to get around it and go about it. There were a handful of scouts there to watch me and I was just trying different ways to throw with my thumb. I can throw my fastball, curveball and changeup as strikes. I was able to get my thumb under the ball and get the ball in the low to mid 90s. It made me stronger in the long run as to know how to deal with it and handle my body.”
Davis said when the draft presents itself or if he signs, things like blisters and other injuries might come up that he is going to have to deal with.
“In SEC and pro baseball, it is a long season,” he said. “You don’t want a blister to get you down for a month. It was a good thing for me to learn how to handle and fix it and a lot I learned about my body.”
While seeing scouts at a T.R. Miller baseball game in 2013 may have been new for some, Davis said it was nothing new for him.
“A lot of people don’t know how many scouts were there for the home game against W.S. Neal,” Davis said. “There were a lot of scouts there. When I threw against Neal in Flomaton, there were probably 15-20. Then I threw against Clarke County and it was about the same. Then against Bayside, it was more. Every good start you have, they start sending their bosses. I had a good start against Clarke County and 30 were there against Bayside. Against Bayside, I was 93-95 MPH and everything felt great. That made them want to send their boss and they came too so we had around 50 when we hosted W.S. Neal. Everyone thinks the ones behind the plate with radar guns are the one making the decisions and they are not. The ones making the decisions are the ones down the foul lines talking to parents and talking to different people.”
Davis said as the scouts grew, he was not nervous to see them come watch him play.
“The summer of my freshman year, I went and pitched,” he said. “I think I hit 90-91 then and for a 15-year-old, that is pretty solid. Last summer and the summer before, I played against top-three or top-five guys and playing against them, there were scouts there watching them. I have been being seen for awhile now and my name has been out there for awhile now. It really did not make me nervous. I remember taking my first pivot steps on the mound during those games and the radar guns behind the plate go up and there are 250-300 scouts in the stands.”
Davis said he worried some that the blister on his thumb may have hurt his chances in some games this year when the scouts were there.
“Some where there to see what their guy had wrote up from the previous game,” Davis said. “Then again, through the last summers, they have seen me pitch before and they know what I can do. A lot of people asked what happened to me this year then a picture got out of my blistered thumb. It showed to a lot what my thumb actually looked like. We could not tell a bunch of scouts that I had to scratch my start because of a blister. If they showed up they would be upset if they came to see one person pitch and they ended up not pitching. There were some things we could have done better this year, but it was still a good senior year. I don’t worry about the what-ifs. Either I am going to sign and play professional ball or I am going to go play in the SEC conference. I am not afraid to go to school. The brand of competition is so good it develops guys. There are some in the big leagues right now that went to the SEC and played. But then again, you have professional guys who their whole job is to develop you and not all about winning. If you don’t win in the SEC it can be different story.”
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