Powerful Pro Debut For Kernels Michael Davis
Image courtesy of Steve Buhr (photo of Michael Davis)Michael Davis grew up in west Texas, in the city of Lubbock. That is football country, to be sure, but there is a lot of great baseball. In fact, Davis noted that the Little League team the year before him went to the Little League World Series. His team finished one game shy of playing in Williamsport.
Davis played some football into his high school years, but it was baseball that he loved. It was baseball that he loved to play, all the time.
“I didn’t watch a lot of baseball growing up. I didn’t watch too much TV. I lived in a neighborhood where I had 13 buddies that we would play wiffle ball or some other sport. We went to a few Rangers games, it was fun. I wasn’t really glued to the TV. I cheered for them when they made their World Series run, but same with the Astros. I like the teams from Texas. That’s just kind of the way it’s always been for me.”
Out of high school, Davis had some thoughts of going to a junior college. He had several offers and often thought it might be fun to leave home for a bit, but in the end, he stayed right in Lubbock and played four years for Texas Tech.
As a freshman, he was a part-time player, splitting time around the infield. As a sophomore, he earned playing time nearly every game. He responded with a 20-double season.
As a junior, he started seeing and talking to more scouts. He noted, “All the teams kind of talk to you and want to get to know you, and the teams were interested. They said I had a good arm, and I could play infield.”
Teams told him that there was a chance that he could be drafted. Unfortunately, a late-season injury cut his season short and he ended up going undrafted.
He returned for his senior season and really put together a terrific season. He hit .281/371/.524 (.895) with 18 doubles and 12 home runs. The 12 home runs was one more than he had hit over his previous three seasons.
But even more than his individual success, Texas Tech returned to Omaha to play in the College World Series. It was a great way to end his college career.
“I enjoyed it so much more the second time. Instead of taking phone pictures of everything, I was just able to take it all in.”
Scouts were a bit different during his senior season. “The first question is ‘Do you want to keep playing baseball?’ Yeah. I do. And then just hoping the right team finds you.”
The Twins liked him and took him in the 24th round of this past June’s draft.
The Twins area scout is Trevor Brown. Davis said, “Trevor had called me a few days before, and talked to me a little bit about it. He said ‘We’ll see what happens.’ A couple other teams had done that also.We were actually at practice and just finished when that round came up. Trevor called me probably 30 seconds after (the pick) and talked to me for five or six minutes. I went in and celebrated with my teammates. Then I think we had three or four more guys got off the board in the next four rounds.”
At that point, it was a bit of a whirlwind for awhile. Following the College World Series, Davis signed. He went to Ft. Myers briefly before joining the Elizabethton Twins. He played just three games for the E-Twins before being promoted to Cedar Rapids where he was able to spend the final seven weeks and the playoffs with the Kernels.
Davis’s biggest worry at that time might surprise you. “Trying to find some wood bats. That’s what I was focused on, making sure I had a couple to hit with after I got moved.”
But Davis, already 22 years old, was ready for the challenge. “It was quick, but I was ready for it. When I got to Elizabethton, I felt like I was playing with college kids. When I got moved up, I thought the same thing. They would have me here if they didn’t believe in me. Got there and just went after it.”
Shortly after his arrival, the Kernels went on a bit of tear and carried it into the playoffs where they won a series before losing in the Midwest League Western Division championship series. After doing a lot of winning at Texas Tech, being part of a winning team in his professional debut was something Davis really enjoyed.
“Awesome. We got on a huge hot streak. It was hard for us to lose. We won 16 or 17 out of 20. That’s more fun, I think. You don’t even worry about making the postseason or playoffs. You just go and play. To do it with those guys, that’s a lot of fun.”
While he struggled with some swing-and-miss early in his time with the Kernels, he really turned it on late and provided a lot of power near the bottom of the lineup. In his 42 games in Cedar Rapids, he hit .294/.327/.559 (.886) with nine doubles, a triple and nine home runs.
The increased power that he showcased in his senior season at Texas Tech carried over into his pro debut. He credited his maturity and adjustments in college, but also showed appreciation for his Kernels coaching staff.
“I think it has a lot to do with both. My knowledge of hitting is much higher. With the Twins, Dink (Brian Dinkelman) and Toby (Gardenhire) were able to help in a short period of time. They worked with me to find something that was comfortable and worked well for me. You get on a role that’s really nice to have. I think my consistency was getting better. I wasn’t necessarily getting a hit every time, but I was making more hard contact instead of striking out.”
After playing around the infield in college, primarily at second base, Davis stepped right into the Kernels lineup at shortstop and played there the rest of the season. He thinks that his defense might be his biggest strength right now, but he also thinks his time at Texas Tech has really prepared him for this next challenge, professional baseball.
“Probably playing defense right now. Just having a knowledge of the game. When you get to play four years at a college, you learn so many things and do so many things. Bringing that, and my ability to play defense at a pretty high level. You always want to say Hitting, but hitting comes and goes as a strength. I think it’s something I’ll continue to grown on and hopefully I’ll continue to get better.”
While he played short, he’s fully aware that Royce Lewis is in the system. He sees that as a good thing. “It’s not always the easiest thing to have a guy like Royce Lewis in front of you, but I see it as a blessing because I know they believe I’ll get a chance as I’m doing the right thing for the organization.”
But it will also be important for him to play around the field and provide himself, and the organization, with options to keep him moving on up.
“I’ve played third a little bit throughout college here and there, but I’m comfortable anywhere you want to put me. I may not be the best out in centerfield, but Akil (Baddoo) does pretty well out there. If you need me to go stand out there because something happened, I can do it. I’m not nervous about playing anywhere. But I am really comfortable playing in the middle of the field and that’s where I want to stay.”
It is middle infielders that Davis enjoys watching and tries to emulate as well.
“I really enjoy watching Brandon Crawford play defense. I think the way he does it is really hard for anybody to emulate, and he does it at such a high level. I see myself similar to Jed Lowrie of a Ben Zobrist. I can play around the field. I’m not going to Wow you with any numbers, but I can play the game the right way and play hard.”
Davis is looking forward to his first offseason from baseball. It’s not something that college players are really used to. He’s got a lot of questions on how to handle his time off, but he’s got the right idea.
“I think just everything that they had me build on once I got to Cedar Rapids. The working out aspect. Making sure I’m doing it the right way, the way they want me to do it. And also just taking care of myself and knowing my limits. It’s a little different than college baseball where you play in the fall and the spring, and then you can play summer ball. You can kind of play all year round. I’ve kind of had breaks like this before, but not for four to five months. So, trying to get ideas on what guys do in the offseason and asking questions and making sure I’m staying on top of things.”
And in his spare time, his time away from the game of baseball, Davis enjoys doing something that a lot of Minnesotans can relate to.
“I’m an avid hunter. I really love to hunt and be out at my buddy’s ranch. Work on guns. Anything hunting wise, you can pretty much count me in on it.”
2018 was a pretty special year for Michael Davis. He returned to college and played in his second World Series. He was drafted in the MLB Draft. He played really well in his pro debut and helped a winning team. It was certainly a nice block upon which to build.
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