Matt Davidson – First Round – No. 34 overall
Photo courtesy South Bend Silver Hawks
By Dan Strittmatter
In Matt Davidson, the D-backs have a prospect with tremendous raw power, which was put on display in the summer of 2008 when he won the home run derby prior to the Aflac All-American Game. After being selected, the team sent Davidson to Short-Season Single-A Yakima to get his feet wet, and he had his share of struggles, posting a .631 OPS in 291 plate appearances.
A very successful pitcher early in high school (Davidson hit for himself on days he pitched and DHed on days he didn’t pitch), Davidson had spent just two years at third base prior to being selected, so his defense there is rough and some think because of his size, that he may have to play first base in the Majors. The D-backs are giving him every opportunity to develop at third, though, having him split time at the hot corner with 16th-overall pick Bobby Borchering at Single-A South Bend, where they are both spending their first full-year of professional baseball in 2010.
The offensive numbers have improved dramatically at South Bend this year for Davidson from his stint at Yakima. Davidson is hitting .304 with a .379 OBP and .505 SLG, having hit 16 doubles and seven homers amongst his 56 hits to lead the team in total bases and OPS. There are some concerns, though, beginning with his 54:14 K:BB ratio and high BABIP of .398. However, as his BABIP has started regressing (it was in the upper-.400’s earlier in the season), there has been a coinciding and noticeable improvement in Davidson’s plate discipline and productivity.
In Davidson’s first 25 games, he drew just one walk and struck out 25 times, and averaged 1.42 total bases per hit, with his numbers remaining high due to an unsustainably-high BABIP. But in the 26 games since, he has drawn 13 walks with 29 strikeouts, a respectable 2.23:1 ratio, and his power numbers have also improved dramatically.
In those first 25 games, Davidson had hit just one home run to go with eleven doubles. In the 23 games since, he has one fewer extra-base hit overall, but has six home runs to go with five doubles in ten fewer at-bats, accumulating exactly two total bases per hit and an amazing wOBA of .380. Further, his BABIP in that span has been a more sustainable .309.
Another painful but productive trend in Davidson’s young career is his propensity to get hit by pitches. During his senior season at Yucaipa High School, Davidson was hit by over a dozen pitches, and this has continued into his professional career. So far in 2010, Davidson has been plunked eight times, and these have helped Davidson maintain his fantastic OBP despite his small, but rapidly growing, walk total.
By almost any statistical measure, Matt Davidson has been the most formidable hitter in the Silver Hawks’ lineup in 2010. Should Davidson be promoted this year, his play at South Bend indicates that there’s a strong chance he could compete in the Cal League, especially given its hitter-friendly nature. However, there is a positional logjam at the corner infield positions in Hi-A similar to the one with Davidson and Borchering at South Bend.
It’s an issue, but certainly one that the D-backs are glad to have in their system.