A Closer Look: Arizona Diamondbacks Third Base Prospect Matt Davidson
**Several readers believe I underrated Arizona Diamondbacks prospect Matt Davidson on the recent Mid-Season Update of the Top 120 Prospects List. Baseball America had him 33rd on their most recent list, whereas I had him somewhere in the 120-140 range. That's a pretty big discrepancy, so I decided to take another look at him.
Davidson's scouting reports from the Southern League are similar to his reports from the California League last year: very impressive raw power is the key. Some observers report while he still has some weaknesses against inside pitches, he made improvements in that department, while showing a better feel for the strike zone. That shows up in his stats, Davidson drawing 43 walks and posting a .367 OBP so far, compared to 52 freebies all of last year and a .348 OBP in the California League.
His relative production is up: he ranks eighth in the Southern League in OPS, compared to 45th last year in the Cal League. His strikeout rate is better this year too. I don't think Davidson is ever going to be a big batting average guy, but the numbers back up scouting reports: he's substantially improved his approach at the plate, tapping into his power more readily, in a tougher league and park environment to boot.
Defense remains the dividing issue. Some reports indicate that Davidson continues to have problems with the glove at third base and will end up (according to these observers) at first base eventually, reducing the value of his bat. Other observers are more optimistic, pointing out that he has a strong arm and believing that with more experience he'll iron out his footwork. Statistically, his error rate remains quite high, but his range factors have improved this year, granted that range factor can be a flawed metric.
In Davidson's case, I would want to see him in person before opining either way on his defense, given inconclusive objective data and contradictory scouting reports from informed observers.
Thinking this through, it is clear both subjectively and objectively that Davidson has improved his hitting approach and boosted his production. Even with a "not sure" rating on his defense, I think the complaints are valid and it was a mistake to not have him on the Top 120 list. I will try to get a better read on his glove before I put out the next version of the list in August.