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Where did Austin Davis come from?

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Have the Phillies discovered the lefty reliever they have needed this year?

MLB: San Diego Padres at Philadelphia Phillies Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Austin Davis hype train has started gathering steam. It’s mostly thanks to his performance the other night in the Phillies’ 16 inning marathon win against the Dodgers. Davis came on in the 14th inning and threw two effective innings, getting three strikeouts in the process. From there, the appreciation tweets started rolling in.

It prompted me think: where in the world did Austin Davis come from? Drafted in the 12th round in 2014, he wasn’t dominant at California State where he went to college. He never really put up those eye popping numbers in the minor leagues, save some good K/9 numbers as a reliever. Heading into this season, he wasn’t one of those prospects that got all the attention, but he did pop up somewhere as someone that we needed to keep our eye on. This is from Matt Winkleman on Phillies Minor Thoughts prior to the 2018 season:

Austin Davis, Age 25, 6’4″ 245lbs, 12th rd 2014 draft

Davis missed more of the 2016 season due to injury and came into 2017 as a full time reliever. His velocity has jumped to sitting mid 90s, and he touched 98 in Clearwater. In hi-A he was able to throw a ton of strikes, but his control suffered in AA. He struggled down the stretch, which is not surprising given his limited 2016 innings. He has good size and did not struggle against righties like most of his left handed counterparts. With more consistency in 2018, he could be in the majors by the end of the year as more than a LOOGY.

It’s not the greatest profile in the world, but Matt did note that if the consistency came, he might be able to carve out a spot in the majors. Well, it seems that Davis has found that consistency. So far this year, he has been a revelation in a bullpen that needed someone from the left side to throw effective innings. This is mostly due to the ineffectiveness of Adam Morgan, but having two lefties, especially in a division with Freddie Freeman and Bryce Harper, is never a bad idea.

Now, granted, it’s difficult to know what to believe when the sample size is only 17 13 innings, but it’s worth looking at nonetheless. Here is his line thus far (through Thursday):

A.Davis 2018

Player IP ERA DRA K% BB% GB% BABIP
Player IP ERA DRA K% BB% GB% BABIP
A. Davis 17.1 2.60 3.64 33.3% 8.3% 37.5% 0.350

He hasn’t been only a LOOGY either. In fact, he has a reverse split where he’s been more effective against righties (.623 OPS against RHB, .724 OPS against LHB). This means that Gabe Kapler isn’t afraid to use him in any situation. That’s noticeable in the fact that he has seen four more righties than lefties.

What the most pleasant surprise is how many batters Davis is striking out. The fact that he is striking out a third of batters he faces is a big deal, considering strikeouts don’t allow runners that might be on base to move up. In fact, setting the bar pretty low at 10 innings pitched, Davis would rank pretty high among all relievers in K% at 22nd, just below Seranthony Dominguez in fact. Couple that with his K%-BB% rate of 25% (which ranks 25th), and the Phillies seem to have promoted another quality reliever instead of having to buy one on the trade market.

With Dominguez, despite a rough few outings, having a dominant season as the closer and Victor Arano,, Pat Neshek and Luis Garcia all being solid, adding Davis to the mix gives this team five legitimate bullpen weapons that Kapler can use in high leverage situations. While I’m not going to declare Davis to be a weapon in the Josh Hader mold that he has shown flashes of, even those flashes can help put our minds at ease come late in the game. If he is able to continue his run, it will help tremendously as this team tries to win the National League East division.