Catcher Taylor Davis has been the unsung hero for the Tennessee Smokies this season, and has allowed manager Buddy Bailey to be confident enough in the backup catcher’s ability to use him in crucial situations. Davis hasn’t received as much playing time, compared to others, but when given the opportunity he uses it to his advantage so much so that some would say he has become the club’s “secret weapon”.
The 24-year-old has hit .351 with four home runs with 28 RBIs in 42 games entering play on August 19, but those stats still do not measure the important role Davis has played with the club this year. He has proven to be one of the more clutch players on the roster, owning a .457 batting average (16-35), along with 25 RBI with runners on base this season, in addition to a .500 clip (8-16) with 13 RBI when batting with runners in scoring position and two outs.
To give an idea of how much of a secret weapon he has been, here are some moments where Davis has come up big this season:
4/17- Brings home the go-ahead run against Jackson in the fourth inning of a seven inning game to give Tennessee a 3-2 victory.
5/10- Drives in two runs with a double in a 10-6 win versus the Jackson Generals.
5/13- Records two RBI as part of a three-hit night in a 10-7 victory at Jackson
6/3- Drives in an insurance run in a 3-0 win versus Birmingham
6/14- Smashed a go-ahead two-run home run as a pinch hitter on July 14 versus Mississippi.
6/15- Records lead off hit and scores game winning run in 11th inning walk-off victory against the M-Braves.
7/26- Hits a game-tying two-run home run, followed by a go-ahead three-run double in 10th inning to give the Tennessee a 7-4 win over Birmingham.
8/4- Hits a home run to get Smokies on the board and hits a two-run double to give them a 3-2 lead, with that two-bagger proving to be the game-winning hit versus Pensacola.
8/16-Hit a home run and recorded four RBI as part of a three-hit effort against Huntsville in a 12-5 win
8/18-Drove in a run while recording three hits in a 7-1 victory at Montgomery.
Not a bad run for a guy who has played in just a third of Tennessee’s 126 contests this season.
“I think he keeps it simple”, said Smokies Hitting Coach Desi Wilson about Davis’ success. “He’s looking for a fastball every at bat. I’ve known him the past two or three years as I worked with him in Daytona and last year, he’s always looking for the fastball.”
“His approach is very simple, it’s not complicated, he believes in himself, he has a good approach up there looking for a fastball and he’s aggressive. He doesn’t miss that pitch to drive so there is no secret.”
The team has also posted a 16-9 record in games Davis starts (14-9 when starting at catcher, 2-0 when starting at DH). That shows testament to when he starts they are a better team. When he is up to the plate, Davis shows plenty of confidence and seemingly doesn’t show any fear.
“I don’t know why I succeed at them,” Davis said when asked about coming through in clutch situations. “My mindset honestly is keep it as same as possible, I honestly get more nervous than the average person. I don’t think of it as any different, obviously I want to do the best I can to help my team win and have fun while doing it.”
“Taylor goes about his business the right way,” adds Wilson. “He’s a hard worker, goes about the game the right way and I’ll tell you one thing, the kid can hit a fastball. In limited at bats with close to 30 RBIs, hitting over .300, that says a lot about the guy. He prepares himself offensively and defensively with the pitchers, and I’m not surprised he’s finishing up strong.”
Davis was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Morehead State in 2011 by the Cubs. Though he was originally told by a club he would be drafted, he never got that call. And now he is getting his chance to prove how valuable he can be to a team.
“You got to enjoy the game, it all comes down to me,” says Davis. “People say ‘play every day like it’s your last game’. And to me that means when I look back at it, if it is my last game, I want to say I had fun doing it.”