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Prospect Smackdown: Bobby Borchering vs. Matt Davidson

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Per Reader Request, here is a Prospect Smackdown between two Arizona Diamondbacks prospects, Bobby Borchering and Matt Davidson.

 Background and Intangibles
Borchering: Bobby Borchering was drafted in the first round in 2009, 16th overall, out of high school in Fort Myers, Florida. He was considered one of the top high school hitters available last year, projected to hit for average and power and drawing comparisons to a young Chipper Jones, although Borchering's defense was rougher. There were no complaints about his makeup, and he had a high profile as an amateur. It was necessary to buy him out of baseball at the University of Florida, costing $1.8 million.

Matt Davidson was drafted in the supplemental first round of the 2009 draft, 35th overall, out of high school in Yucaipa, California. Like Borchering, Davidson performed well as an amateur and was quite familiar to scouts on the showcase circuit. He was considered a less polished hitter than Borchering, less likely to hit for average and in greater need of refinement. His glove was considered shaky, but his makeup was well-regarded. It cost $900,000 to keep him away from baseball at Southern Cal.

Borchering was a better (or at least more polished) amateur player, although both had high profiles and commitments to big baseball schools. Both came from warm-weather states and had lots of exposure. Neither has makeup problems. I'd call this even in most respects, with Borchering a slight edge on background due to superior performance as an amateur.

Physicality, Health, and Tools
Borchering: Borchering is a 6-3, 200 pound switch-hitter, born October 25th, 1990. His best physical tools are power and arm strength: he has a strong arm, more than adequate for third base. However, his footwork needs a lot more polish, and he'll never be more than an average defender at the hot corner, especially if his lower half thickens up as he gets older. There's talk he may end up at first base, given that he doesn't really run well enough to play the outfield. At whatever position, the thing that will make or break him is the bat. He has outstanding bat speed and raw power. Scouts have generally rated his swing from the left side as stronger than from the right, though the numbers didn't back that up this year (see below). He makes an effort to work the count and will take a walk, although he's shown a propensity to swing and miss in pro ball a bit more than scouts expected.

Davidson is a 6-3, 225 pound right-handed hitter and thrower, born March 26, 1991. His two best physical tools are power and arm strength. He has a third base arm, but lacks speed and had problems with his footwork at third base. He doesn't run well enough to play a good outfield, so first base will be his destination if third doesn't work out. On offense, Davidson features enormous power, even more than Borchering. He was considered a less-polished hitter in high school, with contact issues against quality stuff and raw swing mechanics, but has made progress refining them as a pro, although more needs to be done. He's made an effort to work the count as a pro, but strikes out a lot ,as expected.

I think this is really even. Both of these guys are big, lack running speed, have strong throwing arms, but rough defense at third base. Both have great physical strength; Davidson has a bit more raw power, but Borchering's switch-hitting flexibility is an advantage. Most scouts still see him as a more complete hitter in the long run, although Davidson made progress in that department this year.

Current Performance
Borchering: Borchering hit .270/.341/.423 in 135 games for South Bend, with 54 walks, 128 strikeouts, 31 doubles, and 15 homers in 523 at-bats, posting a .763 OPS, +6 percent for the Midwest League. He was stronger against lefties (.829 OPS, .740 against right-handers) which was the opposite expectation from pre-season scouting reports. He was hot late, hitting .305/.385/.532 in August/Sept. An unlucky BABIP was probably a factor early in the year. He spent 51 games as a DH and played 84 at third base, with poor results: .892 fielding percentage, a very low double play rate, and a poor range factor.

Davidson hit .289/.371/.504 in 113 games for South Bend, with 43 walks, 109 strikeouts, 35 doubles, and 16 homers, posting a .874 OPS, +22 percent for the Midwest League. Promoted to the California League, he hit .169/.298/.268 in 21 games, drawing some walks with 12 free passes in 71 at-bats, but fanning 25 times. His overall season line was .272/.360/.469, with 36 doubles, 18 homers, 55 walks, and 134 strikeouts. Davidson played 72 games at third base and 61 as a DH, fielding .919 with a very low double play rate and average range factors.

The Midwest League is pro-pitching and South Bend is a tough environment for hitters; both of these guys had good season with the bat, though Davidson's was stronger overall. He didn't hit well in the Cal League but the sample was small and he did draw some walks. Both of them struck out a lot; both of them drew a fair number of walks. Both of these guys were butchers with the glove, although Davidson wasn't as bad. Overall, Davidson has the advantage in 2010 performance.

Midwest League sources still see Borchering as a guy who can become a complete hitter, with a higher average and OBP than he showed this year, with the potential for 30 homers a season, although he needs some adjustments. His defensive metrics are dismal and it seems likely he'll end up at first base, although if I were the Diamondbacks I can understand leaving him at third base awhile longer to see if he improves.

Davidson projects as a lower batting average player compared to Borchering, but with even more power. He showed more polish than expected this season and some believe his batting average and OBP will be higher than originally anticipated, though not everyone believes this. His defensive stats were ugly but not as bad as Borchering's, and he actually fielded pretty well at Visalia, at least in terms of making fewer errors.

If each maximizes his potential as scouts expect, both should be very successful major league hitters, although the shapes would be different: Borchering being more of a .290-.300, 25-30 homer guy, with Davidson more of a .250-.270, 30+ homer player. Based on 2010 performance, Davidson has a better chance to stick at third, although that could change. He's also five months younger. I'd call this even.

This is really tough. I call it virtually even on intangibles, physical tools, and projection, with Borchering a slight edge in amateur background and Davidson an edge in 2010 performance. Does that mean I would rate Davidson ahead of Borchering on a prospect list? To tell you the truth, I'm not sure. The smackdown process would indicate that I should, but I don't know yet, and fortunately I don't have to decide that until I get into writing the book. It will be interesting to see which one ranks higher on the Baseball America Midwest League prospect list due out on October 1st.

What do you guys think?