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Prospect Instinct 2012 | Matt Davidson, 3B Arizona Diamondbacks

Matt Davidson, 3B Arizona Diamondbacks
Height: 6’3” Weight: 225

Lately there has been noticeable lack of prototypical strong, power hitting third basemen in Major League Baseball. However, the Arizona Diamondbacks have a prospect that has the potential to fit that mold very well. The Diamondbacks selected Matt Davidson in the 1st round and 35th overall pick in the 2009 amateur draft. Draft reports out of high school indicated a good-sized kid with a glove capable of sticking at the hot corner with a bat that could project for good power. With nearly 1500 plate appearances in professional ball; Davidson remains an intriguing prospect with some major flaws in his game that threaten his ability to reach that potential.

After 3 years of ball, there is a fairly consistent trend for what you can expect from Davidson. Let’s start with the areas of strength. As the early scouting reports suggested, Matt Davidson has a power bat. In 2011 Davidson was good for 20 home runs and 106 rbi’s after logging 535 at-bats. Additionally he scored 93 runs, thus making himself quite productive from an offensive perspective.

It would be fair to point out that Davidson’s productivity in 2011 came while playing in the hitter-friendly California League, but the 2011 power numbers are fairly consistent with his first 2 years of professional ball and can’t be considered an outlier. With 20 hr’s, 39 doubles and 1 triple, it can easily be stated that Davidson gets a charge on the ball when he makes contact. But the “when he makes contact” phrase is of paramount importance. With the 606 plate appearances logged in his 2011 season, Davidson fanned 147 times. Unfortunately, Davidson didn’t mitigate his strikeout ways with a high walk rate. His walk rate of 8.6% during 2011 isn’t enough to offset all of those K’s. But one must remember that Davidson will not turn 21 until March 26th, so there is time in his development path to make adjustments. Davidson came in just outside the reach of our Top 100:

Arizona Diamondbacks108°Matt Davidson, 3B, Diamondbacks, 3/26/1991 – Davidson is the best power hitting prospect left in the system after Paul Goldschmidt made his debut in Arizona in 2011. He’s just 20 years old, but he’s already spent a season in High-A and came away with 60 XBH. That’s 39 doubles, 1 triple and 20 Home Runs. He was also able to hit a respectable .279 even though he’s striking out more, which will be unacceptable at the next level. Davidson is still young and profiles as a .280 hitter with 30+ Home Run power. Amongst the Diamondback’s 3B prospects right now, Davidson is the best bet to stick at 3B. He will take his game to Double-A Mobile in 2012. ETA 2013.

Let’s take a deeper look at his tools and see if there is projection left for the player that came in 108 on our Baseball Instinct 360°:

The Bat

Matt Davidson has a swing that looks fantastic in batting practice. The first thing to notice about it is the short stride that relies on strong hip rotation to generate power. This is nicely complimented with strong wrists that generate good bat speed. There is a natural loft to his swing that helps him to drive the ball in the air and a long ways.

With such a nice stroke, why the high number of strikeouts? The main problem with Davidson seems to be an inconsistent approach at the plate. He seems to get overly aggressive and swing at pitches that are not in the zone. Pitchers have found ways to get him to chase stuff and expand the zone. When he gets overly aggressive at the plate his timing gets out of sync causing him to get too far in front with his balance. His most effective at-bats tend to come when he is patient and makes the pitcher work. As he gets a feel for the pitches he becomes a much more dangerous hitter.

The swing itself, is most definitely a MLB caliber of swing that could make Davidson a force to be reckoned with. The most important element of his game starts with his overall approach at the plate. By improving his recognition of the strike zone, Davidson could improve on the 24.3 k% and his contact rates. Likely this would also boost his marginal 8.6 bb%, and increase his on-base rates. Suddenly, Davidson could be a legitimate middle-of-the-order batter in the big leagues.

The Glove

One of the most pivotal questions about Matt Davidson is his defensive position. And that question is paramount to the overall professional path that his career will take. He was drafted as a 3b and ideally would stay at the position. However, he has also spent a lot of time playing 1b as well. He has good hands and can really pick the balls that are hit at him. The problem is that he lacks defensive range and quickness. He simply isn’t athletic enough to get to everything that one would normally expect from a major league third basemen. However, his arm is very strong and would be wasted if he can’t stay on the hot corner. There is a substantial difference in Davidson’s fielding percentage from 1b to 3b by good margin as evidenced by the .922 at 3b compared to nice .992 rate he has logged at 1b. If Davidson cannot hang at 3b , it also puts a lot of pressure for his bat to excel.

One last positional consideration for Matt Davidson, is that third base doesn’t have any strong organization road blocks to prevent him from reaching the major league level. On the other hand the first base position is likely to be manned by Paul Goldschmidt; a player with a solid major league future. To achieve the optimum developmental path Davidson needs to work on maximizing his defensive range and minimizing his error rates while playing the hot corner..

Our Instinct

There are many questions to be answered by Matt Davidson. It starts with determining if he has the defensive chops to stay at the hot corner. If he moves to 1b, how does he find major league playing time? The questions on offense surround his ability to improve his overall approach and consistency at the plate. He has shown the ability to be patient, but doesn’t consistently take that approach with him to each and every game. If he can learn good strike-zone management by lessening the k-rate and increasing his walk rate (often those 2 trends go hand-in-hand); then Davidson’s chances to reach and succeed at the majors go up exponentially. His swing is sweet enough and his stroke contains enough power for Davidson to force his way to the show.

The expectation is that Matt Davidson will start the 2012 season in double A and likely will be given an opportunity to demonstrate his ability to play at 3b. The markers to watch will be his error rate defensively and his bb/k ratio offensively. Those will determine how fast he progresses towards the majors. But if he is unable to reach his potential, he profiles as a .250 hitter that strikes out an awful lot, and may struggle to find a home in the field. At his ceiling Davidson can be a middle-of-the-order bat with 30hr’s and 100+ rbi’s and remind us all what an old-school power hitting 3b really looks like.

Stick with Baseball Instinct and we’ll keep you a step ahead of the game. Check back soon for more Prospect coverage. While you’re here, check out our Baseball Instinct 360° – it’s our top 360 prospects for 2012. Also check out a friend of ours for all of your fantasy sports needs. Fantasy Rundown is updated religiously and is truly an awesome resource. Also, check out our friends over at Seedlings to Stars for a unique perspective on prospects.  Thanks for checking Baseball Instinct. We’re working hard to bring you the best of the minor leagues and make the site the best experience it can be, so don’t hesitate to tell us what you would like to read about. Email us now at mailbag@baseballinstinct.com.


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