When Matt Davidson got called up to the big leagues with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2013, he probably thought he would never have to endure another long and strenuous minor league bus ride. Being ranked in most top 100 prospect lists and having solid production in his limited big league time that year, everything seemed to be pointing up for Matt Davidson.
It was on December 16, 2013 that Davidson was traded to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for the young closer Addison Reed. We usually think about a “change of scenery” as a positive thing for a player, but for Davidson, it may have been the opposite. Being the favorite to man 3rd base going into spring training, Davidson struggled throughout the spring, eventually losing the job to Conor Gillaspie.
In AAA Charlotte, Davidson was awful all year long, finishing the year with an ugly .199/.283/.362 slash line. His next season was nearly as bad. When 2016 rolled around, however, Davidson realized his time was running out. He had a fantastic spring training, only to be sent to AAA for the start of the year after the White Sox acquired Todd Frazier in the offseason. This bad luck would lead most to believe Davidson would have another tough season in AAA, but this was not the case. Davidson hit .268/.349/.444 with a lower strikeout rate than he had in his previous two seasons.
These strong numbers would push the White Sox to call up Davidson and they did just that on June 30th. He made his White Sox debut on this day and drove in a run on an RBI single in his second at bat. Then, while running the bases, Davidson injured his foot and was out for the season. He could not catch a break.
This brings us to 2017. With Todd Frazier’s White Sox future uncertain, Davidson figured to get another shot to make the big league club and with another solid spring training, he made it again.
From the start of the season, Davidson has been an above average hitter with serviceable defense at 3rd. His .239/.283/.502 slash line has given him a 107 OPS+. He is also 2nd among American League rookies in home runs with 22. Many, understandably, worry about the hit tool with his 38.5% strikeout rate and his lack of walks. Davidson is a rookie who spent way too long in AAA. His eagerness at the plate is no surprise and is something that should be expected to improve. At 26 years old, there is still time for development and I fully expect it to come.
Davidson’s strikeout rate has always been high throughout his minor league career, but never nearly as high as it has been this year. Davidson’s 2017 walk rate of 5.3% has never been this low during his career. These facts demonstrate two things: 1. Major league pitching requires an adjustment. 2. With more time, Davidson will improve upon these numbers. Giving Davidson two more months of at bats this year and another season of at bats next year will allow him to put the ball in play more and take more walks, increasing his offensive value even more.
The defense is still an issue, but it’s not detrimental. If Davidson proves to be unfit for 3rd base, the White Sox could always move him to 1st, where he has played eight games this year. When he is a finished product at the plate, he will undoubtedly profile as a solid designated hitter, with the possibility to hit 35 home runs and drive in 100.
All in all, Davidson has plenty of room to develop, but has always displayed many positive signs this season after years of disappointment. It is time to start thinking about Davidson as a potential corner infielder or DH for the 2020 White Sox. He’s here to produce and he’s here to stay.