Worry is creeping in regarding the Cardinals' latest top draft pick

Chase Davis, the St. Louis Cardinals' first-round pick in 2023, has experienced massive growing pains thus far in his career.
State Farm College Baseball Showdown
State Farm College Baseball Showdown / Bailey Orr/Texas Rangers/GettyImages

After 2020 first-round draft pick Jordan Walker rocketed through the minor leagues and made his major league debut with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2023 on the heels of a scintillating spring, the Cardinals decided to return to the well of power-hitting outfielders in the first round of the draft, picking Chase Davis 21st overall and signing him to a $6.3 million bonus. But while Walker hit the ground running en route to numerous minor league accolades, Davis has not shown much in his first two years in the system.

Davis was a celebrated college bat at the University of Arizona, hitting 39 home runs in just over two full years and holding a batting average of .319. But with Single-A Palm Beach in 2023, Davis hit only .212 with a .636 OPS and didn't show the power he possessed in college, failing to hit a single home run in 131 plate appearances.

2024 has seen further regression, as Davis is batting .179 with two home runs and an OPS of .497 across 111 plate appearances. The most concerning aspect is Davis' propensity to strike out, as he has fanned in a whopping 26.9% of his chances at the plate.

The Cardinals' draft history under Randy Flores, the director of scouting, is quite strong, especially in the middle rounds, where the team has unearthed gems such as Tommy Edman, Lars Nootbaar, and Brendan Donovan. In the first round, the Cardinals have a history of choosing low-upside college pitchers with high floors (Zack Thompson, Michael McGreevy, Cooper Hjerpe). When they decide to grab a bat, they usually pick a prep hitter with power (Nolan Gorman, Jordan Walker).

As a collegiate position player, Davis bucks the Cardinals' draft trend, and because he's faced higher levels of competition than those in high school, he should theoretically be on a faster track through the minor leagues. But if Davis continues to have strikeout problems to this magnitude and shows little power to make up for it, the Cardinals might have no choice but to leave him festering in Single-A.

Palm Beach plays in the Florida State League, which is notoriously friendly toward pitchers, so there is still a glimmer of hope that a promotion to High-A might allow Davis to figure something out. It's far too early to deem Davis a bust, but the early returns are concerning.