Matt Davidson is a big, hulking young man. He’s been flirting with a 30% strikeout rate throughout all of his minor league history, needed tons of work to bring his defense up to snuff and will run like a slugger his whole career no matter if he hits like one or not.
But he knows where the strike zone is (9.6% walk rate in the minors) and when people make mistakes to him, he hits it to the sun, so he should be more than useful if he can indeed play third base every day. It looks like he can.
None of this is immediately relevant to him being on the Opening Day roster, even if it’s primary driver of excitement around him. Davidson is the future at third base. Conor Gillaspie and Jeff Keppnger are not, and watching them kill time is not the stuff season ticket sales emails are made of.
But again, what is to be gained from having Davidson up sooner than later? If Davidson is better than Gillaspie and Keppinger, he’d give the White Sox a better chance to win and compete by being up in Chicago longer.
Is that a meaningful goal? Of course the White Sox are trying to win, but are they trying to win with their typical prospect-rushing intensity? The language being thrown around by Rick Hahn on the matter is unconvincing.
“It certainly is possible he breaks with us Opening Day, but if that’s not the case we’ll see a lot of him this season once we feel he truly is ready,” Hahn said on MLB Network’s ‘Clubhouse Confidential.’ “There’s still a few areas he’s going to improve in and we need to see some refinement.”
“Truly…ready,” “improve,” and “refinement.” These are not our typical code phrases, like “contribute,” or “help us win.” Hahn’s assessment seems way more interested in bringing up Davidson at his ideal peak in development. Robin barely sounds like he’s moved by the idea of seeing Davidson either.
“He has every reason to go in there and try to win the job,” Ventura said last month. “He moves around better than what the reports were. He can hit and has the power and everything else. Defensively, I got that rap too for a while. So I’m not worried about that.”
“Every reason to go in there and try,” reads as ‘it would be nice if he tried hard during Spring Training.’ That’s the only positive possible outcome from this whole forced debate: that maybe Davidson dominates so viciously in Spring Training that he forces everyone’s hands. Or just provides something to look forward to coming out of the immediate minors.
The positives of holding Davidson out–stockpiling more service time and letting him get a hang of non-PCL Triple-A pitching–are likely to remain more compelling, at least to those in charge of making the White Sox good.
If I had to pick why prospect hounding and slowly appreciating an organization build its foundation is a miserable existence, this would not be a bad example–rooting against seeing players you’re interested in, prioritizing cost and opportunity savings of nine-figure corporation and watching Jeff Keppinger play out the string.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan