It feels like we’ve simply been biding our team until the Milwaukee Brewers make their “big move” this offseason, and here a week before Christmas we are still waiting for something major to happen. At the very least, David Stearns and company have begun to sate our lust for transactions in a minor way over the last few days; first with the reported signing of old friend and reclamation project Yovani Gallardo, then the rumored minor league pact with hefty lefty Mike Zagurski. Now this evening the club has officially announced another minor league contract with a veteran arm:
The #Brewers have signed RHP Erik Davis to a minor-league contract with an invitation to Major League camp.— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) December 18, 2017
Erik Davis, who turned 31 in October, began his career as a 13th-round pick of the Padres back in 2008. He ascended through the lower levels of the minor leagues relatively quickly, reaching AAA for the first time in 2010 while showing promise as a starter. He was then dealt to Washington and began 2011 back in AA, but he seemingly hit a wall in his new organization and the following season he made the full-time conversion to reliever. The move paid off in spades. After compiling a 2.87 ERA across 125.1 innings between AA and AAA in 2012-13, Davis earned his first taste of the big leagues. He made 10 appearances for the Nationals in 2013, and in 8.2 innings he allowed three earned runs with 12 strikeouts against just one walk.
Davis appeared poised to compete for a spot in Washington’s bullpen for the 2014 season, but disaster struck during Spring Training in the form of an elbow injury that wound up requiring Tommy John surgery. He missed an entire season’s worth of action and hasn’t been back to the majors since. He left Washington via minor league free agency following the 2016 season and signed with Arizona prior to the start of last year. He spent the duration of his campaign in AAA Reno, where he compiled a 4.38 ERA/91 DRA- along with marks of 10.2 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9 across 63.2 innings (53 appearances). For his 9-year minor league career, Davis has logged 711.0 innings in 326 games (75 starts) with a 3.86 ERA, 8.9 K/9, and 3.5 BB/9.
Davis has a physical build, standing 6’3” and tipping the scales at 205 lbs. He delivers from the ball from a high three-quarters arm slot using a deceptive delivery that makes the ball tough to pick up out of his hand. His arsenal consists of a four-seam fastball, curveball, and changeup. His heater is relatively straight but he features plus velocity; according to Brooks Baseball it averaged 94.97 MPH during his Spring Training stint with the Diamondbacks last season. His best pitch is his change piece, which has long been graded as a plus offering. He throws it liberally, in any count and will use it as his out-pitch. His third offering is his curveball, which rates as below-average and is only thrown around 10% of the time.
Davis will get a chance to show what he can do in big league camp next spring as a part of his minor league deal. His presence adds another veteran arm with MLB experience to Milwaukee’s stable of bullpen depth, though perhaps one with a bit more upside than the typical minor league signing. The raw materials for a useful reliever are there: swing-and-miss ability, good velocity, and a legitimately plus secondary offering. Perhaps Derek Johnson and Milwaukee’s coaching staff along with the analytics department can find the tweak that will help Erik Davis take the next step in 2018.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs, Baseball-Reference, and Baseball Prospectus