Prospect Report: Even In Chicago, Matt Davidson Could Prove To Be A Disappointment In ’14

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Earlier this week the White Sox acquired Matt Davidson from the Arizona Diamondbacks, presumably to replace the potential rotation of Conor Gillaspie, Marcus Semien and a variety of others. While some have speculated that Davidson could fit best as a first baseman, the White Sox clearly appear comfortable with him at the hot corner (at least for now).  Remember, they signed Jose Abreu earlier this year to play 1B and also have Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn coming back for another year.

However, the question isn’t where Davidson fits in for Arizona.  The real question is if his bat will produce enough to stick.

Davidson, who will turn 23 in March, is best known for his power potential though he hit just 17 HR in 443 AB in the Pacfiic Coast League.  He added 32 doubles in 2013 and has 99 doubles, 6 triples and 60 home runs over the past three seasons in the minors.

He’s still young and the power is still developing, so the overall extra base numbers are encouraging. It could take time, but from all the scouting reports it appears that 20-25 HR are a distinct possibility.  That’s the positive when we look at Matt Davidson, who the White Sox acquired earlier this week in exchange for Addison Reed.  Is it enough, though?

The bigger issue is his ability to make consistent contact, deteriorating his chances of hitting for a good average. Just look at his strikeout rates over the past few years:

  • 2011 (High-A) – 24.3%
  • 2012 (Double-A) – 22.1%
  • 2013 (Triple-A) – 26.8%

Rich Wilson of Prospect 361 (click here for his full top 10 Diamondbacks’ prospect list) did a tremendous job of explaining why he has these issues:

“Davidson’s calling card has always been plus raw power with a lot of swing and miss. The swing and miss comes from a long leveraged swing that is susceptible to pitches down and away. He did reverse a nasty .339 against LHP vs. a .233 against RHP split in 2012 which was clearly encouraging. He also has very good strike zone awareness, posting a 10% walk rate in 443 at-bats in Triple-A.”

It is true that he draws a fair number of walks, but not enough at this point. Major League pitchers were able to take advantage of him in his cup of coffee in 2013, as he struck out 24 times in 76 AB. Unfortunately, as they get a better book on him, the number could get worse before it gets better.

Just to make matters worse, he has become a bit prone to popups over the past two seasons (11.0% and 10.2%), further hindering his ability to hit for a big average.

If he’s lucky he seems like he could be a .250 hitter, but the potential is there for a significantly worse number.

Does the power potential make him an intriguing option, especially in deeper formats? Absolutely, but just know the potential price attached to him. There are definite potential negatives and, with other options available, the White Sox could ultimately decide to give him more time at Triple-A.

Worth owning in dynasty formats, those in redraft leagues will want to proceed with caution.

Sources – Minor League Central, Fangraphs, Prospect 361

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