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Jason Hunt takes a look at a prospect who could be ready for the Majors in 2013, but doesn't have a clear path to playing time as of now.
The Diamondbacks have been busy this offseason, making multiple trades, signing a couple free agents, including trading away face of the franchise Justin Upton. As a result of all of these moves, the path for 3B prospect Matt Davidson has become extremely clouded.
Davidson spent the 2012 season with AA Mobile, where he posted a .261/.367/.469 slash line with 23 home runs, 28 doubles and 81 runs scored. He played 3B exclusively this season after splitting time between 1B and 3B while in High-A in 2011 as well. We ranked Davidson as our #6 fantasy prospect amongst 3B this year, as he can be a very nice source of power, although there may be some batting average risk associated with him. He did show signs of improvement this season in terms of his plate discipline, as his strikeout rate dropped, walk rate increased, and line drive rate went way up as well.
Players In His Way
3B: Martin Prado - The Diamondbacks acquired Prado as a part of the Justin Upton trade, and then proceeded to give him an extension which will keep him there through 2016. There was the potential to move Prado to second base once Aaron Hill's contract expired after this season, but the Diamondbacks have since given him a contract extension through 2016. So there is still the potential for a move to the outfield, except for...
OF: Jason Kubel and Cody Ross - The Diamondbacks are committed to Kubel through the 2013 season, with a mutual option for the 2014 season which is pretty reasonable given his production level. The team also signed Ross this offseason, who has a three year deal along with a club option for the 2016 season. Add in that they still have Adam Eaton (the likely CF) who is under a year of service time, and Gerardo Parra who is under team control through 2015, and it gets clogged pretty quickly out there. If the team decided to move Prado back to the outfield, there is probably just as much of a chance that the team tries Davidson out there as well.
1B - The team could move Davidson across the diamond to first base, but current first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is under team control for 4 seasons AFTER 2013. In addition, Davidson is probably not going to turn into a better hitter than Goldschmidt, which makes the move even more unlikely.
What's Next for Davidson
Davidson will likely start the season at AAA Reno, where his offensive numbers could go completely through the stratosphere given his profile and the bandboxes that are many PCL stadiums. I'll be more interested to see how he is posting his numbers than the numbers themselves, as he could hit 30+ home runs in a full season in the PCL. More likely he is a 20 homer bat in the Majors than a 30, so temper your own expectations when you see the performance.
The Diamondbacks don't seem likely to have a long-term need for Davidson, but would be smart to wait until it became clear what upgrade they would need at the Major League level. I could see the team including Davidson in a package to get them a player midseason, as they could look to acquire an impact player before the trade deadline with him and some of the pitching or shortstop depth they have in the minors right now. Looking around the majors, teams with potential long term openings at 3B could include the Phillies, Orioles, Twins, and Cubs (depending on your opinion of Josh Vitters). While I don't think that he necessarily gets traded, or that if he does he ends up with one of these teams, they all could lead to a much clearer path to the Majors for Davidson.