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August 13, 2013

The Call-Up

Matt Davidson

by Chris Mellen and Bret Sayre

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The Situation: With Eric Chavez hitting the disabled list due to knee and hip soreness, Arizona has called up third baseman Matt Davidson from the Reno Aces. Martin Prado was expected to see the bulk of the playing time at the hot corner during Chavez’s absence, with Davidson in reserve, but with Cody Ross now out with a dislocated hip, it remains to be seen whether the 22-year-old right-handed hitter is pressed into more consistent action.

Background: The Diamondbacks selected Davidson as a sandwich pick in 2009 out of Yucaipa High School (Yucaipa, CA). The third baseman immediately began to flash the power he had been touted for, belting 18 home runs in his first full professional season between A-Ball and High-A in 2010. After posting a .277/.348/.464 line in the California League with Visalia in 2011, Davidson was tasked with the challenge of Double-A and proving he wasn’t the product of a hitter-friendly league in 2012. He did not disappoint. Davidson put up a .836 OPS and launched 23 bombs with Mobile to begin solidifying himself as a prospect on the rise. The 22-year-old continued to prove the bat is trending in the right direction this year in Triple-A, and was named MVP of this year’s Futures Game after his go-ahead home run. Davidson entered the year ranked fourth on Baseball Prospectus’ Diamondbacks Top 10 Prospects list.

Scouting Report: The bread and butter of Matt Davidson’s offense game is his raw power. avidson’s frame is well filled-out, with a solid lower trunk to tap into. -The righty creates strong leverage with his swing through the hitting zone and knows how to extend post-contact to generate lift after squaring offerings up. The power should play to all fields, with around 20 home runs in sight. While Davidson is patient at the plate and will work counts for pitches to drive, along with being balanced in his approach, there is a lot of swing-and-miss in the third baseman’s game. Davidson’s longer arms and tendency to open up his hips early leave him susceptible to swinging over the top of quality breaking stuff and prone to hard fastballs above the thighs on the inner third. He’s a hitter that likes to get the arms extended and head of the bat out to the ball. The hit tool projects as about average at the peak, with .250-.260 batting averages likely and high strikeout totals the norm. Defensively, Davidson possesses a plus arm that is more than adequate at the hot corner. On the stiff side early in his career, he’s made strides with improving both his footwork and angles to become about an average defender. While Davidson won’t be known as one of the better defenders at the position, he can handle it in the bigs in the long term with a bit more polish and dedication to getting better. —Chris Mellen

Fantasy Impact: There aren't a ton of prospects you can count on for consistency, but Davidson is definitely one of those guys. He's been in the .260-.280 average range with increasing power in each season, culminating in 23 homers during the 2012 campaign. And the scouting report shows no surprises in that respect.

The biggest question surrounding Davidson when this news broke was whether he would get enough playing time to warrant ownership outside of NL-only leagues. However, that question seemed to get answered on Sunday afternoon, when Cody Ross dislocated his hip trying to beat out an infield single. With the odds of Ross returning this season relatively low, that pushes Martin Prado to the outfield more often than not, clearing third base for Davidson. There may be a slight playing-time crunch when Chavez returns, but not only is Chavez no lock to return based on his injury history, but Davidson will have a few weeks to prove that he should continue to play. What will also help his chances of getting on the field the rest of the season are the Diamondbacks' dwindling playoff hopes. They are 7 ½ games out of first place in the NL West and 5 ½ games out of the second wild card spot as of Sunday. If they're still this far back, or worse, in September, Davidson should see that playing time just to get him additional experience heading into 2014.

With the playing time and favorable home park in Davidson's corner, he's worthy of a pickup in most 14-team mixed leagues and deeper formats, especially if you have a need at a corner infield spot. While there is certainly performance risk in the short-term, given his aforementioned contact issues, there is also upside. If he were to get 150 at-bats from here on out, I would expect around a .250 average with five or six homers and decent counting stats the rest of the way. In NL-only leagues, that should be worth around $10 in FAAB if you're carrying a dead spot somewhere Davidson can help. In keeper/dynasty leagues, I'd make him a pickup in 12-teamers as well, as he has the potential to do what Todd Frazier did in 2012 down the line. —Bret Sayre

Chris Mellen is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Chris's other articles. You can contact Chris by clicking here
Bret Sayre is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Bret's other articles. You can contact Bret by clicking here

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