White Sox youthful core gets stronger with Davidson
Power-hitting third-base prospect continues transformation on South Side
CHICAGO -- The White Sox have spent the offseason strengthening their core and have done so without using Pilates or yoga in the process.
That transformation got another boost on Monday, when the South Siders acquired third baseman Matt Davidson from the D-backs in exchange for White Sox closer Addison Reed. Moving another quality young talent such as Reed, let alone a proven late-inning force who has 69 saves in 136 career appearances, was not an easy task for general manager Rick Hahn.
But in having a chance to add Davidson to that newly created young offensive core, a side of the White Sox game that clearly needed an overhaul after the 2013 shortcomings, it became a deal Hahn could not turn down.
"We were able to acquire in Davidson another young position player, currently 22, with a chance to be part of our new core as we continue to build," said Hahn, pointing out the deal came together Friday night. "Since July, we've picked up Avisail Garcia, Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton and now Davidson.
Prospect acquired by White Sox
Matt Davidson, 3B: Davidson, ranked No. 64 on the MLB.com Top 100 Prospects list and No. 2 on the D-backs' Top 20 at the time of the trade, is ready for a shot at a big league job. Taken with the 35th overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, the third baseman had worked his way steadily up Arizona's system, making his big league debut last August. Davidson's Minor League career has been chock full of accolades, making All-Star teams in 2010 in the Midwest League, 2012 in the Double-A Southern League (where he was named the Championship Series MVP) and in 2013 for the Pacific Coast League. He also was the Futures Game MVP in 2013 thanks to a big home run at Citi Field. The Southern California high school product began his career sharing third base with Bobby Borchering, though he took over full-time at the hot corner in 2012. Davidson, who will play the 2014 season at age 23, has always had some ceiling with the bat. He has the chance to hit for average as well as above-average power and while there is some swing and miss to his game, he has a fairly solid approach and hasn't been afraid to draw some walks. There used to be more questions about Davidson's glove and his ability to stay at third, but most feel his solid actions and arm should allow him to stick there. He should have every opportunity to supplant Conor Gillaspie as Chicago's starting third baseman in 2014.
"All of them are between the ages of 22 and 26, and bring the ability to be strong offensive contributors and help us on defense. We wanted to address our more pressing needs and third base has been one.
"Certainly, it's never easy to give up homegrown players like Hector Santiago or Addison Reed, guys we've developed and have drafted and have had success," Hahn said. "But it was imperative to address position player needs to help in 2014 and help us in the long haul."
Davidson hit .280 with 32 doubles, 17 home runs, 74 RBIs, 55 runs scored, a .350 on-base percentage and a .481 slugging percentage in 115 games with Triple-A Reno in 2013. He knocked out 23 homers and 28 doubles for Double-A Mobile in '12 and 20 homers and 39 doubles for Visalia in '11.
This Pacific Coast League midseason All-Star last season and winner of the 2013 Triple-A Home Run Derby also was selected as Most Valuable Player of the Futures Game at Citi Field during All-Star weekend after hitting a go-ahead, two-run homer for the United States.
Listed by MLB.com as No. 64 among the Top 100 Prospects, Davidson has been dubbed by numerous talent evaluators as a hitter with an abundance of raw power. Davidson, who instantly becomes the organziation's top prospect, would like to be more than a home-run hitter.
"I'm a power hitter, but I want to become a complete hitter," said Davidson, after the shock of the trade had quickly turned to excitement. "You want to be getting on base all the time. I see myself as more of a line-drive guy. My goal is to be a complete hitter. Not just hitting home runs."
"He has a good approach and the ball jumps off his bat," said Hahn of a player he believes could be a middle-of-the-order hitter for a long time. "There's still some refinement, and it remains to be seen whether that works best at the Triple-A or big league level. I do feel when he gets here, he's going to be here for a long time."
There's certainly a chance that Davidson begins the '14 season as part of Triple-A Charlotte, with the White Sox taking a similar approach to how they handled Garcia, in that he won't be at the big league level until he can play every day. Conor Gillaspie, Jeff Keppinger and Marcus Semien also remain in the third-base mix, with Keppinger and Semien targeted for usage across the infield.
Keppinger stands as an offseason trade target, although the two years and $8.5 million left on his deal reduces that potential. The White Sox remain confident that Keppinger will be a more productive force in '14, if he stays with the team.
By Davidson's own admission, his defense at third base remains a work in progress. It was a new position when he moved from Yucaipa High School in California to the D-backs after being selected 35th in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, but the good news is that Davidson feels stronger at third with each passing year.
Matt Williams, Eric Chavez and Martin Prado all worked with Davidson last season, with the 6-foot-2, 225-pound right-handed hitter playing 31 games for Arizona. Davidson quickly pointed out that White Sox manager Robin Ventura was a pretty solid third baseman in his own right and a good source of information.
"When I first got called up, the biggest thing for me is I feel like the game was a little fast," Davidson said. "Then I got more comfortable and started making plays. Everyday playing and more reps, that's how you get better.
"From the very start when I got drafted, I knew defensively was not my strong point. I have accepted it's not my greatest tool, but I work on it to make it my greatest tool. I've only improved over the past four years, which is reassuring to me."
Getting acclimated to the White Sox won't be an issue for Davidson, who played with outfielder Trayce Thompson on the showcase circuit and went to high school with pitcher Scott Snodgress.
In a strange twist, Davidson and Reed work out at the same EM Speed and Power Training facility in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. The two saw each other Thursday, but they were not together Monday when Davidson found out he was joining the White Sox.
"You always want to be with the team you got drafted with," said Davidson, who knew he was blocked by Prado and the addition of Mark Trumbo in Arizona. "I'm super excited about the opportunity and blessed they wanted me."