Continuing our series of rookie profiles for 2017, we turn our gaze this morning to the Chicago White Sox and 26-year-old third baseman Matt Davidson. He is off to an excellent start, hitting .385/.429/.846 in his first five games.
Davidson has been on the radar for years. Originally drafted in the compensation round by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009, he showed impressive power at all levels of their farm system and reached the majors for the first time in 2013. He hit .237/.333/.434 in 76 at-bats, then was traded to the Chicago White Sox for Addison Reed in December ‘13.
Expected to take over at third base for the Pale Hose, he instead suffered through two years of misery in Triple-A, hitting just .199 in 2014 and .203 in 2015. He made significant adjustments in 2016 however, hitting .268/.349/.444 in 75 Triple-A games and earning his way to the majors again on June 30th. He got into one game and broke his foot, ending his season on July 1st.
When he reached the majors last year we filed this report. Some excerpts:
Reports indicate that Davidson has been taking the ball the other way a bit more often this year and isn't caught up as much in trying to pull as he's been in the past. . .Davidson's strikeout rate remains elevated at 26.4%, but that's still a lot better than the 30.4% of 2014 or the 31.7% of 2015. He's done a better job making contact, but again it remains to be seen if this will hold true in the majors.
Although the bat is still uncertain, his glove has dramatically improved over the last three seasons. In the lower minors it seemed inevitable that he would move to first base; he always had a good arm but his range, hands, and instincts were all very mediocre. He was a butcher back in the Midwest League in 2010, with poor range and a high error rate. He doesn't look like the same guy now; his footwork is hugely improved, his hands are quicker, transfers smoother, his arm strong and accurate, all these changes reflected in much better defensive statistics.
There's still room for skepticism about Davidson's ability to make consistent contact and he may struggle to hit .240 (or .220) in the majors. However, his power and defense could make him a useful role player for the right team, and he seems like the type of player who could have a performance surge in his late 20s.
Nothing has changed really. He lost time due to the injury but the profile remains the same: he’s got power and a fine glove for third base, but has to prove that last year’s Triple-A improvement will hold up in the majors.
Davidson hit .241/.303/.448 in 58 at-bats in spring training. If the adjustments from last year can stick, he could produce very similar numbers over a full season.