Waiting in the Wings: Matt Davidson

After pandering to the masses with my posts last week, previewing premium talent at the upper levels of the minors, I'm going to take a look at some slightly lesser known prospects in the hopes that those of you in deep leagues find this information useful in deciding who to snag and who to leave well enough alone.

Matt Davidson - 3B - Diamondbacks - Taken in the supplemental first round in the 2009 draft, Davidson signed for $900,000 and has had some ups and downs throughout his time in the Diamondbacks system. In his first three years in the system, Davidson has had to share third base responsibilities with fellow early round selection Bobby Borchering. Perhaps that has contributed to some of his minor struggles at the plate as he has blossomed with full slate of games at third base, having possibly his best season of his career, albeit we are only a third of the way through the season.

Read more on Davidson after the jump...

Davidson signed quickly after being drafted in 2009, quickly enough to earn just under 300 plate appearances. He didn't impress with his statistics however, putting up a thoroughly mediocre .241/.312/.319 slash line. Since then however, the real Matt Davidson has shown up, posting slash lines of .289/.371/.504 in Lo-A and .279/.350/.467 in Hi-A over 2010 and 2011 respectively. Davidson has struck out a little too often for my taste with K rates of 22.9% and 24.3% in the past two seasons, though he is not a hacker, walking 9.1% and 8.6% of the time, respectively. All that swing doesn't come without a positive though, as Davidson vastly improved his power output since his '09 debut, slugging .509 with a .214 ISO and 16 home runs in Lo-A and following that up with a .467 slugging, .189 ISO and 20 home runs in Hi-A, though his 2011 campaign was in the hitter friendly environs of the California League. Additionally, while no one could say Davidson was repeating the Cal League, he did see 71 at-bats there in 2010, so had experience at the level, before mashing in a full season attempt the following year. So far in 2012, Davidson has put together what is by my count, the most impressive season of his career. While his 2012 slash line of .271/.376/.507 isn't demonstrably different than his previous couple seasons, and is particularly reminiscent of his Lo-A performance, he's doing it at a higher grade of difficulty, leaving both the friendly confines of the Cal League, and facing improved pitching. Not only that, but he's upped his walk rate considerably, to 13.1% while making small progress with his K rate, cutting it to 22.8%. He is also posting a higher slugging percentage and ISO than he did in the Cal League, while seeing his BABIP come in at a healthy .319, though that is considerably lower than his career average for BABIP. That he's posting a similar line in a more difficult league, against more advanced competition, while raising his walk rates while actually getting unlucky relative to his career numbers makes me think he's on his way to posting his best season yet, in his age 21 season.

Davidson isn't just a statistical pleasure, as he brings it on the tools front too. He owns one of the prettiest right-handed swings in the minors, that shows not only form, but function. His hands are quick and strong, allowing him to make solid contact, with power coming from his whole body, not just an upper or lower half. His hand strength helps generate power, but his excellent hip rotation allows him to involve his lower half as well, so while his swing is contact oriented, his power comes easily and naturally. Davidson features a sound approach at the plate, though he isn't exactly a patient hitter. While he has racked up the strikeouts so far in his career, his approach is solid, and I'd expect his strikeouts to drop as he gains experience. In the field, Davidson is no Brooks Robinson, heck he might not even be Mike Moustakas over there, but he can pick it enough to say there. His range is little more than fall down, but his arm is above average and he has the hands for the position. He's spent a lot of time working on his defense and he may yet be average to slightly above before all is said and done. Akin to his range, his speed is well below average, and is not a part of his game, succeeding in two of six career attempts, though his two successes have occurred this year.

While Davidson has mostly appeared on the back end of top 100 lists, or not at all, that is in no way an oversight. He has made improvements each year, and has continued to do so here in 2012. He is earning his prospect status, and has certainly vaulted himself up my personal list, and my guess is that I'm not alone in that reaction. With the ability to stay at third base, not hurt you in average (think .270-.290 range), and 20 home run power along with plenty of doubles, Davidson will pile up the counting stats. I think he's a buy low right now, and by the time top 100 lists come out next year, your window to get him cheaply will have passed. Wait at your own risk.

Source Material:
Baseball America
Keith Law/ESPN

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