Brewers loaded with Davises working way to Majors
Outfield prospects connected by name, position despite different playing styles
PEORIA, Ariz. -- It required a visit with Rickie Weeks, the Brewers' best batting practice slugger, to be sure that Khris Davis' booming home run in Tuesday's exhibition against Team Canada was as impressive as it looked from the press box. Told of where the baseball bounced, Weeks nodded.
"You don't see many up there," Weeks said.
Davis' go-ahead blast landed at the base of two flagpoles in left-center field and nearly cleared a brick wall that separates Maryvale Baseball Park from a strip mall. Last year, when Davis was rehabbing a calf injury in Arizona, he said he hit one farther down the left-field line that actually cleared that back wall on a fly, at least according to Tony Diggs, who was the Brewers' Rookie league manager.
On Tuesday, Davis connected with a curveball.
"I don't know if I could hit it much farther," Davis said.
It was another impressive moment for the 25-year-old, one of two Davises impressing in Brewers camp. The other is 24-year-old Kentrail Davis, who is no relation to Khris but has been connected to him since the Brewers selected both in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. Kentrail Davis was the Draft's 39th overall pick out of the University of Tennessee; Khris Davis went in the seventh round out of Cal State-Fullerton.
They have played together for parts of the past three seasons, usually Kentrail in right field and Khris in left. Both are in their first Major League Spring Training camp, part of a nice stable of outfield prospects in camp that also includes Josh Prince, Caleb Gindl and Logan Schafer. The closest to the Majors is Schafer, who is expected to begin the season as Milwaukee's fourth outfielder.
"It's been such a good experience so far, getting a feel for the coaching staff, the players," Kentrail Davis said. "You get to work with the big league hitting coaches and get seen by everyone. I'm more of an observer. I like to sit back, listen, learn and take in as much as I can."
Of the Davises, Kentrail is the better defender and had a respectable year at the plate, batting .274 with 36 extra-base hits including seven home runs, 41 RBIs and 19 stolen bases.
"For me and [Kentrail], it was our first experience in Double-A," said second-base prospect Scooter Gennett. "So there were certain adjustments I had to get accustomed to and I feel like we both did a good job of getting better throughout the year. Now we have to take that into wherever we play this year."
Khris Davis has the gaudier offensive numbers -- a .294 average, 56 home runs, 216 RBIs and 35 stolen bases in four professional seasons. He was limited to 82 games last season by rib cage and calf injuries, but managed to hit .350 with 15 homers and 52 RBIs while topping-out at Triple-A. He played 15 more games in the Arizona Fall League.
Will Khris prove a good enough defender to play in the Majors?
"We'll see," manager Ron Roenicke said. "What I've seen from him so far, he's been good. He's got decent range, he runs OK, I'm very confident that he's going to catch the balls. I know his throwing arm is the one part that we've been working on, and I think that's getting better, but that's going to prevent him from playing the other position."
Brewers coaches have been working with Khris to clean up his long throwing motion, but it's Davis' bat that will get him to the big leagues. Davis homered again against the Mariners on Wednesday, and his 2-for-3 afternoon pushed his Cactus League average to .300.
Khris is 5-foot-11, 200 pounds in the Brewers' media guide, but Davis' teammates from Double-A Huntsville last season were not surprised by the power he displayed Tuesday. One was Gennett, who happened to be on deck during Davis' long home run.
"I gave him a [fist] pound and said, 'Thanks for letting me follow that,'" Gennett said. "It doesn't surprise me with him even though he's a smaller guy, because I've seen it so much. He can hit. I've played with him the last two and a half years that it's expected."
Does Khris Davis consider power a big part of his game?
"I just think it's a secret weapon, really," Davis said. "Me being kind of small, no one looks at me and is like, 'He's got power.' I do, but it's kind of a secret."
There's one big obstacle in Davis' way: The Brewers have a pretty good left fielder named Ryan Braun, the face of the franchise who is signed through at least 2020. Davis considers Braun the "best [left fielder] in the game."
"I really believe that the game decides when I'm going to make it," Davis said. "I know I'm going to make it, but the game decides the timing through hard work. Real talk."
Roenicke said he considers Davis a left fielder, period. Davis did try first base once in the instructional league.
"It didn't go too well," Khris said. "I think I'm an outfielder in my blood."
So he will continue biding his time. He's discussed that philosophy often this spring with a teammate.
"We talk about staying with our own process, not getting caught up," Khris said. "It's easy to fall into that trap, but I have to stay within my own capacity. If I keep getting better, there's no way they can keep me away."