Khris Davis and Kentrail Davis aren’t related, but they sure seem linked–they’re both outfielders named K. Davis in the Milwaukee Brewers minor league system. Both were drafted out of top college programs by Milwaukee in 2009–Kentrail 39th overall and Khris in the seventh round.
Entering the season, it would seem that the similarities ended there. Khris was considered a C-grade power prospect and wasn’t even ranked in the Brewers’ top 30 (a weak system, too) by Baseball America, while speedy Kentrail was ranked sixth, trailing only second baseman Scooter Gennett among position players. John Sickels ranked Kentrail third in the Brewers system and top among position players, and put Khris sixteenth overall, but the consensus seemed to be that Kentrail was a solid prospect and Khris was filler.
Just a few months later, things seem to have changed.
Kentrail Davis is having a perfectly serviceable year in High-A, hitting .258/.337/.367. He’s stolen 30 bases in 36 attempts, as well.
Problem is, serviceable doesn’t cut it for a 23-year-old in High-A, at least not when the goal is for said player to become an above-average starter in the major leagues. The Florida State League is pitcher-friendly, but at 5’9″, Davis isn’t built like a power hitter and doesn’t seem like he’s going to be much of a threat in that department in the majors.
And that’s a problem, because the former center fielder has spent most of his time in right field this year, and most scouts believe he’s going to end up as a left fielder down the line. And it’s tough to be a good left fielder when you don’t have much in the way of secondary skills and don’t project as a .310 hitter. Kentrail Davis projects as maybe a .280/.350/.380 hitter if things go right. That might play in left, given that he’ll bring solid speed and defense there, but his margin for error in development is extremely slim at this point given his advanced age.
Or, to put it another way, compare Davis to a very similar player–former Brewers prospect and current Indians outfielder Michael Brantley. Like Brantley, Davis is a lefthanded hitter with good speed, below-average power, and poor outfield instincts.
So Davis may become Brantley then, right?
It seems to make sense…until you realize that Brantley is 13 months older than Davis. When he turned 23, Brantley had big league experience and was just playing his final games in Triple-A after performing well there for 1 1/2 years. Heck, Brantley was in Double-A at age 20.
Of course, players take weird development patterns all the time, but there’s no way one can reasonably be as optimistic about Davis’ future as Brantley’s.
Meanwhile, though, Khris Davis has taken a big step forward. He got written off largely because he was old for his level last year, and he’s half a year older than Kentrail Davis. Like Kentrail, Khris opened the year in High-A, but he quickly established himself as the top power threat in the circuit, bashing the ball at a .309/.415/.533 clip. His strikeout rate–70 in 90 games–is more than acceptable for a slugger, and he walked 51 times as well.
And all that comes in the pitcher-friendly FSL.
Davis was rightfully promoted to Double-A Hunstville earlier this week, which will continue to challenge him, but if he continues his hot hitting there, he has to be looked at as a potential starting corner outfielder in the big leagues.
There’s value beyond Davis’ bat, as well. He’s got some speed and has swiped 27 bases in the past year and a half, and while he’s not really a defensive asset, he’s not the sort of atrocity in the corner outfield spots that many minor league sluggers are.
Both K. Davises remain potential future starting outfielders, but there’s no question the gap in between them has closed this season, and I might be ready to rank Khris ahead of Kentrail at this point. However, due to their age and positional limitations, neither player can afford many developmental missteps or risk getting confined to Triple-A mainstay/occasional MLB bench player purgatory. It will be interesting to see how they develop in the coming 14 months.