In 2013, Rick Hahn and the White Sox began a tradition of making big moves at the MLB Winter Meetings. Matt Davidson was acquired in the smaller of the two trades that the Sox completed during those meetings. After acquiring Adam Eaton from the Diamondbacks for Hector Santiago in a 3-team trade, Rick Hahn made very clear to then Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers that the Sox were still very much interested in finding a deal for their young 3B Matt Davidson. Not long after that, The Diamondbacks agreed to trade Davidson straight up for Sox young reliever Addison Reed. Reed struggled with the Diamondbacks but has since developed into a top notch setup man. However, Matt Davidson has really had a tough go of it since the trade.
A former 1st round draft pick, Davidson made his MLB debut with the Diamondbacks in 2013 after a solid season at AAA Reno. For the White Sox, the deal looked like another savvy one. Conor Gillaspie had manned 3B the year before after the signing of Jeff Keppinger backfired, and the Sox had been looking for a long term replacement at 3B ever since the end of the Joe Crede era. With the Sox penchant for drafting and developing high quality arms, the loss of Reed wasn’t expected to sting that much. The juice seemed very much worth the squeeze. However, despite a very strong Spring Training, Davidson lost out on the 3B job to Conor Gillaspie, who went on to have a nice offensive season. Davidson would spend all of 2014 and all of 2015 at AAA Charlotte, where he struggled mightily. Despite hitting 43 home runs over the two seasons, Davidson hit .199 in 2014 and .203 in 2015 with a combined 355 strikeouts in 1067 at bats. To his credit, Davidson persevered and adjusted in 2015. Impressively he put those atrocious years behind him and worked hard to improve both his swing and his mental approach. In 2016 Davidson had a solid half season at AAA Charlotte that finally led to a promotion to Chicago, where he would be given a shot as DH. However, Davidson’s run of tough breaks continued as he broke his foot in his first game and missed the rest of the season. Soon to be 26, Davidson is healthy again, out of minor league options, and ready to contribute as one of the unheralded wild-cards for the rebuild in Chicago.
I am confident that Davidson’s swing adjustments will make him a productive piece for the White Sox in 2017. There has been a lot of positive reporting from camp with many speaking highly of Davidson. Rick Hahn has mentioned him specifically a few times with regard to someone who has impressed and has a real shot to positively contribute in 2017. Depending on the split of playing time, there are a couple of different possibilities for Davidson’s 2017 numbers. Should Davidson be used as DH mostly against lefties, and accumulate around 350 at bats, I would expect his numbers to look like something below.
This projection has Davidson hitting a few more home runs than he did in Charlotte, while striking out more. His average also suffers, in part due to projected partial playing time. However, at best Davidson is probably a .260-.270 hitter with solid power numbers. Should Davidson get a full time look at DH and be productive over 550 at bats, I would expect his numbers to look more like this:
Such a season would be a very impressive accomplishment for Davidson. It would validate his development and the adjustments he made to put behind him the tough seasons he endured in 2014 and 2015. The power numbers would be very welcome to a team that is still lacking offensively, and his presence would allow Abreu to DH more often to keep him fresh. Moreover, this production would be excellent in the 6th or 7th spot in the order for a Sox club that, in a few years, will be looking to contend.
Matt Davidson has had to listen to a lot of criticism and questioning for his struggles in 2014 and 2015. However, through mental and physical adjustments, Davidson seems to have overcome and put himself in a position to be a productive big leaguer. Even if he flames out in Chicago this season, his perseverance and hard work should be commended. I expect Davidson’s positive progression to continue and to impress with his powerful bat in Chicago this year. Wearing #24 this season, I expect that Matt Davidson can entrench himself as a long term offensive piece for the Sox rebuild. -DV
Photo: Minda Haas on Flickr, UCInternational