Is Erik Davis The Next Tyler Clippard? Washington Nationals Add Reliever To 40-Man Roster

Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

Washington Nationals' reliever Erik Davis was added to the Nats' 40-Man Roster last week after a strong season at Double and Triple-A in the Nats' system in 2012.

Though Erik Davis made one start at Triple-A in San Diego's organization in 2010, he split most of his third pro season, after the Padres' drafted the 6'4'' right-hander out of Stanford in the 13th Round of the 2008 Draft, with the High-A Lake Elsinore Storms and the Double-A San Antonio Missions. At Lake Elsinore, the then-23-year-old pitcher was (9-3) with a 3.82 ERA, 3.29 FIP, 34 BB (3.09 BB/9) and 91 Ks (8.27 K/9) in 19 starts and 99.0 IP.

With San Antonio, Davis had a (4-0) record with a 2.75 ERA, 2.74 FIP, 12 BB (2.75 BB/9) and 35 Ks (8.01 K/9) in seven games and 39.1 IP. Before the 2011 season began, Davis was traded to the Washington Nationals in a deal that sent veteran infielder Alberto Gonzalez to San Diego.

After four seasons at Stanford in which he was (15-7) with a 4.80 ERA, 95 walks (3.77 BB/9) and 195 Ks (7.73 K/9) in 78 games, 27 starts and 227.0 IP as a Cardinal, Davis was a combined (32-9) with a 3.49 ERA, 99 walks (3.03 BB/9) and 278 Ks (8.52 K/9) over 73 games, 51 starts and 293.2 IP in the Padres' organization before the trade to the Nationals. While dealing with a knee injury in 2011, Davis was (5-7) with a 4.79 ERA, a 3.87 FIP, 41 BB (3.93 BB/9) and 93 Ks (8.90 K/9) in 20 games, 19 starts and 94.0 IP at Double-A Harrisburg and (0-5) with a 6.48 ERA, 4.43 FIP, 16 walks (4.32 BB/9) and 24 Ks (6.48 K/9) in six starts and 33.1 IP at High-A Potomac where he worked with P-Nats' pitching coach Paul Menhart for the first time.

In 2012, having transitioned to a relief role, Davis was (7-3) with five saves, a 2.52 ERA, 2.95 FIP, 18 BBs (2.52 BB/9) and 69 Ks (9.65 K/9) in 40 games and 64.1 IP at Double-A Harrisburg. As Menhart told Patriot-News' writer Geoff Morrow in a late May article, the improvements Davis made after moving to the bullpen changed the perception of the right-hander within the organization. "'I think the whole organization thinks differently of him,'" Menhart said:

"'There's a different fire about it. I don't think it's too far-fetched to compare him to somebody like [new Washington Nationals closer and former minor league starter] Tyler Clippard.'"

Clippard was primarily a starter in the New York Yankees' organization, but was moved into a bullpen role after going (6-13) with a 4.66 ERA, 4.26 FIP, 66 walks (4.15 BB/9) and 125 Ks (7.87 K/9) in 27 starts and 143.0 IP at Triple-A Columbus in 2008 in his first year in the Nats' system following a December '07 trade with NY. In '09, Clippard transitioned to the pen and was (4-1) with a save, a 0.92 ERA, 2.87 FIP, 15 walks (3.46 BB/9) and 42 Ks (9.69 K/9) in 24 games and 39.0 IP in relief at Triple-A Syracuse before he was called back to Washington, where he's remained and flourished since June of '09.

Asked about the difference between starting and relieving, Clippard, in a 2010 interview, said that realizing that there was no difference and that it was just pitching made it easier for him:

"It's still pitching, you know. So for me that was the biggest thing that helped me in the transition, was keeping my same philosophy. I think to do it one time through the order, when you're only facing a guy one time, you can come at him with all your stuff and I think that is conducive to being more successful in the sense that you don't have to face him more times through the lineup and they get a feel for what you're trying to do. So I think in that sense it's more beneficial to kind of go after everybody with all your pitches, and a starter [who] has four pitches and they go to the bullpen can use all those pitches to their advantage."

"'This kid had an unreal turnaround in his career from last year to this year,'" Menhart told MASNSports.com's Byron Kerr last week after Erik Davis was added to the Nats' 40-Man Roster, protecting the now-26-year-old right-hander who would have been eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft which takes place on December 6th, the last day of the upcoming Winter Meetings. MASN's Mr. Kerr notes that once Davis moved into a bullpen role he started relying on his fastball, "... which he could pinpoint at 95 mph, and got big-time results.":

"'He was not trying to nibble at the corners,' Menhart said. 'He really challenged hitters. His fastball set up his off-speed pitches, which are well above-average.'"

Davis also throws a knuckle curve and a circle change as Patriot-News' writer Geoff Morrow noted last season. The right-hander finished his second year in the Nats' system at Triple-A Syracuse and is currently pitching for the Gigantes del Cibao in the Liga de Beisbol Dominicano where he's (3-0) with a 0.50 ERA, seven walks (3.50 BB/9) and 17 Ks (8.50 K/9) in 16 games and 18.0 IP in relief in which he's allowed 10 hits and five runs (one earned) while holding opponents to a .156 BAA so far this winter. Paul Menhart compared Davis to Tyler Clippard. With a strong start at Triple-A in 2013 the right-hander could now be in a position to earn himself a call to D.C. as Clippard did in his second season in the organization. Not a bad year of development for a pitcher who was previously known mostly for having shown the fortitude to recover from a devastating line drive that hit him in the face.

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