- Full name Rajai Lavae Davis
- Born 10/19/1980 in Norwich, CT
- Profile Ht.: 5'10" / Wt.: 195 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Connecticut - Avery Point
- Debut 08/14/2006
- Drafted in the 38th round (1,134th overall) by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2001.
Organization Prospect Rankings
Baseball was a sidelight for Davis in high school in New London, Conn., as his true love seemed to be playing point guard in basketball. But he continued playing baseball at a branch campus of the University of Connecticut, and the Pirates took a shot at him late in the 2001 draft. He worked his way through the farm system until landing in the major leagues last August. Davis' calling card is his great speed, which has allowed him to steal 224 bases in six minor league seasons. It also enables to cover plenty of ground in center field and to make up for mistakes when he takes bad routes. Davis led the Gulf Coast League with a .384 average in 2002, then hit better than .300 at both Class A stops. His average and plate discipline have suffered against more experienced pitchers since reaching Double-A. Davis spent the final six weeks of last season with the Pirates and didn't start a game, an indication the organization views him as a reserve outfielder long-term.
To answer the inevitable question, Davis' first name is pronounced "RAHJ-ay" and it means "king" in Sanskrit. He set an Altoona franchise record for stolen bases last season after leading the high Class A Carolina League in hitting and steals in 2004. Davis has a good feel for being a leadoff hitter, though his strikeout-walk ratio declined in 2005. He's willing to take pitches, bunt and slap the ball on the ground to get on base. He has above-average speed and seems to find another gear when he needs to beat out an infield hit or chase down fly balls into the gap. Davis needs to tighten his strike zone a little more and polish his routes in center field, though he often can make up for defensive mistakes with his speed. The Pirates have a similar player in Chris Duffy, who broke into the majors last year and likely will be their starting center fielder in 2006. Davis will spend this season in Triple-A before posing a challenge to Duffy in 2007.
Davis was a late-round draft pick who did not have much baseball experience. He has steadily improved and had a breakthrough season last year, winning the Carolina League batting title and leading the league in runs, hits and stolen bases. Davis has outstanding speed and has learned how to use it by bunting, working deep counts and becoming a good basestealer. He has good bat speed and makes consistent contact, showing more power from the left side and better contact from the right. He also plays a solid center field and has a decent arm. He doesn't have a lot of power, but his hand strength should help him find the gaps more often. Davis' routes can get sloppy in center field. He was older than most of the competition in high Class A and will get a good test this season in Double-A. If he continues to develop, he could settle in as the center fielder and leadoff hitter in Pittsburgh in 2007.
Minor League Top Prospects
The catalyst on a team that had little punch beyond slugger Brad Eldred, Davis set himself apart as the best leadoff hitter in the league this season. The Pirates have been patient with Davis, coming out of a small school in the Northeast, and that patience paid dividends, as Davis ranked first in the league in hits and stolen bases while sitting fourth in on-base percentage. He is also a plus defender, taking good routes to balls, showing an average arm and getting good jumps with plus speed. "He's a catalyst, a presence to be reckoned with--the kind of guy who can change your game plan," Lovullo said. "All he's shown this year is how he could be a terrific leadoff guy in the big leagues the way I'm sure the Pirates anticipate him to be."
Best Tools List
- Rated Fastest Baserunner in the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2007
- Rated Fastest Baserunner in the International League in 2006
- Rated Fastest Baserunner in the Eastern League in 2005
- Rated Best Baserunner in the Eastern League in 2005
- Rated Fastest Baserunner in the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2005
- Rated Best Strike-Zone Discipline in the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2005
- Rated Fastest Baserunner in the Carolina League in 2004