Davidson making most of Fall League chance

October 21st, 2021

would like a mulligan, of sorts.

The A’s first-round pick in 2019 certainly learned a great deal in his first full season of pro ball, up in Double-A. After all, adversity is a fantastic teacher. But when he was told he was going to play for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League, he couldn’t wait to work on a clean page.

“This is a great league, obviously,” Davidson said. “A lot of good players come through here. I’m just excited to get a fresh start and make adjustments from things I wanted to work on throughout the year. Just start over and have a good season.”

The A’s challenged their No. 12 prospect by sending him up to Double-A for what was his real first full season of pro ball. He ended up with a .212/.307/.313 line in 119 games and while he walked in 12 percent of his plate appearances, he also struck out in 30.1 percent of them.

“I think I started out pretty hot in Spring Training this year, had a pretty good alt site,” Davidson said. “Ran into some trouble at the first of the season in Double-A. I kind of got thrown into the fire, so to speak. I feel like I handled it well, mentally, preparation, all of that. It was definitely tough to get used to playing every day again.”

And Davidson did play every day, appearing in all 119 of the RockHounds games in the Double-A South. In no way is he using the lack of a 2020 as an excuse, but getting shut down early in Spring Training of his first full year after getting drafted, missing out on all those game reps and then having to play more games than he’s ever played in his life was a heavy lift.

“Physically, I did a pretty good job of it, just learning the routines and how to keep your body ready every day,” Davidson said. “Mentally, it was definitely tough, coming off the last year when you didn’t play any games for the most part and now you’re playing 120 regular season, plus your Spring Training and alt site games, it was definitely difficult to make that adjustment.”

He did make a good transition to a new position. Davidson was a shortstop throughout his college career at Clemson and during his pro debut with short-season Vermont, and while he played a majority of his games there with Midland, he also played 40 games at third. The work at the hot corner will continue this fall as he continues to work on positional flexibility.

“I probably prefer short still because I’ve played it a lot more,” Davidson said. “Third is fun, though. It’s a nice little change of scenery. I think it’s a little bit easier. I think there’s less responsibility, there aren’t as many cuts and relays and turning double plays and stuff. You’re pretty much responsible for the third base bag. Sometimes you get some hot shots at you. It’s exciting. It’s fun to mix it up.”

A’s hitters in the AFL

Jeremy Eierman, 3B/2B (No. 26): Eierman is adding on to a year that ended for him in July because of a quad injury. He showed some improvements at the plate during his 60 games in Double-A, though he still needs to work on his approach (36.1 percent strikeout rate), while continuing to see time at the hot corner after being a shortstop in college and for much of his first full season of pro ball.

Austin Beck, OF (No. 28): This is the decision year for Beck, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2017 Draft, with the A’s needing to decide if they want to put him on the 40-man roster. He’ll need to show he can improve his plate discipline to get to his considerable raw tools more consistently, as he struck out in 35.7 percent of his plate appearances this year and walked in just 5.8 percent. There is power to tap into and he even hit three homers in eight games when he was pushed up to Triple-A for a spell in July.

Jonah Bride, C: Bride has been an infielder for the entirety of his pro career, but the 2018 draftee went to instructs before the AFL to learn how to catch, taking to it better than expected. It’s something he’ll continue to work on with Mesa, coming off a solid offensive year in Double-A where he walked as much as he struck out (.407 OBP) and had the lowest whiff rate on fastballs in the entire organization.

A’s pitchers in the AFL

Jeff Criswell, RHP (No. 14): Arm trouble limited Criswell, the A’s second-round pick in 2020, to just 12 innings in 2021, so he’s in Arizona mostly to make up for lost mound time. While doing so, he’ll also be working to refine his fastball command and on the pitch design of both of his breaking pitches.

Bryce Conley, RHP: Conley spent much of his career since being taken in Round 22 of the 2017 Draft starting, but split the 2021 season in Double-A between the rotation and the bullpen, missing more bats and issuing fewer walks as a reliever. He’s pitching out of the pen to see if it’s a better long-term fit for him and his 95-mph fastball, 90-mph cutter and solid slider.

Hogan Harris, LHP: The A’s 2018 second-round pick has had trouble staying healthy, with just 54 2/3 IP in his career since signing, all in 2019. Elbow issues have plagued him since his college days and forced him to miss all of 2021. He worked with rehab coordinator Craig Lefferts to streamline his delivery and the A’s are hopeful he can get a regular workload in to see how his 93-95 mph fastball, changeup, curve and developing slider works against good competition.

Pedro Santos, RHP: Santos is a 6-foot-4 Cuban right-hander with solid raw stuff: a fastball up to 95 mph, a big, tight overhand curve and a solid change. That helped the 21-year old to strike out 11.5 per nine, but he also walked 8.2 per nine and is focusing on keeping his head online with his delivery to help with his command.

Brock Whittlesey, RHP: After one year closing and one year starting at New Mexico State, he signed with the A’s as a non-drafted free agent in 2019. He’s been almost exclusively a reliever as a pro, posting an impressive 5.64 K/BB ratio across two levels of A ball this season. He commands his low-90s fastball well and pairs it with a power 89-mph cutter. He’s working on adding a bigger, slower breaking ball.