The Tigers today announced a batch of 22 non-roster players that received invitations to major league Spring Training. That group included plenty of players who had already been in the system, as well as those signed to previously-reported minor league deals. One name on the list that wasn’t already expected to be in camp was that of outfielder Jonathan Davis, indicating he’s been signed to a minor league deal.
Davis, 31 in May, has appeared in the past five major league seasons, but primarily as a reserve outfielder. He didn’t play more than 64 games in any of those campaigns and has appeared in 171 contests overall. He hasn’t been able to take advantage of those brief opportunities thus far, having hit .185/.291/.245 in 350 career plate appearances for a wRC+ of 54. He’s fared much better in the minor leagues, with a Triple-A slash line of .260/.366/.419 for a 113 wRC+, though he hasn’t been able to come close to that in the bigs. The Brewers outrighted him off their roster in September and he became a free agent at season’s end.
Despite that low offensive output, Davis will bring a solid floor thanks to his speed and defense. Statcast considered his sprint speed to be in the 70th percentile last year, which has helped him steal 18 bases in 21 career tries while also producing eight Outs Above Average in 858 2/3 outfield innings.
The Tigers don’t have much certainty in their outfield mix at present. Riley Greene should be getting everyday action in center field but is still very young and has just 93 games of major league experience. Austin Meadows spent much of last year on the injured list and only got into 36 games. Akil Baddoo followed up a breakout 2021 with a dismal 2022 where he hit just .204/.289/.269. Kerry Carpenter had a nice debut but in a small sample of just 31 games. Depth options on the 40-man include Matt Vierling and Tyler Nevin, neither of whom are fully established big leaguers at this point. Davis will serve as a veteran option for a club that was decimated by injuries last year and surely would like to have plenty of depth on hand. If he makes his way back onto the roster, he’s out of options and can’t be easily sent back to the minors, but he could be retained for future seasons since he has between two and three years of MLB service time.