The Chicago White Sox have dropped four straight (before Sunday’s game), and quite honestly the club looks a lot worse than their 8-13 record indicates. This is a team that ranks toward the bottom of the league in most offensive categories, including an MLB league-worst 64 runs scored. Their slugging percentage is woeful at .345, good for 26th in baseball.
The point is this team needs a spark, and that’s obviously not going to come from the so-called leadership facets currently in place. But Robin Ventura‘s inability to stop listless play in his four years on the South Side is another matter entirely, and if poor play persists, one that I’ll certainly discuss down the road.
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The hard truth is that it’s too early to send Ventura packing, and other chemistry injections, such as Carlos Rodon‘s hyped promotion or the full-fledged brawl with the Kansas City Royals have done little to infuse life into a team that has frankly looked apathetic in the early going.
Come in Matt Davidson, the team’s former number one prospect who has been a bright spot so far at Triple-A-Charlotte.
When Davidson was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks for closer Addison Reed in the 2013 offseason, he was for all intensive purposes a major league ready piece who had a power dimension to his game that looked like it would play very well at the lively U.S. Cellular field.
Really, the concern with Davidson wasn’t his bat, but rather if he could hold down third base defensively. After a hot Spring in ’14, Davidson looked poised to take over the hot corner. He was sent down to Triple-A to clean up his defensive footwork and to curb service time concerns.
Feb 24, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Chicago White Sox third baseman Matt Davidson (22) takes batting practice during a workout at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Davidson imploded at Charlotte. The power was still there, as he clubbed 20 home runs, but his average came in at .199 and he sported a 30.4% strikeout rate along with an .OBP below .300.
In other words, there was no September call-up for the California product.
This season has been a different story for Davidson as he’s off to a torrid start. Davidson has already accumulated five home runs over 20 games at Charlotte and posted a .526 slugging percentage. He’s done all of this with a BABIP of .327 so it’s not as if he’s just been getting lucky or is due for significant regression.
Davidson is off to a torrid start in 2015.
Davidson has always been a high strikeout guy, but he really isn’t as bad as his 30.4 percent strikeout rate in ’14 suggests. Davidson has a career 27.1 percent strikeout rate, and managed a 26.1 percent mark in a full season at Triple-A with Arizona in ’13. Now to be sure, these marks are still bordering “awful” territory according to Fangraphs.com.
But while a 30 percent strikeout rate is practically unplayable, Davidson has at least for the most part remained below that barrier. For context, Chicago Cubs prospect phenom Kris Bryant had a 28.6 percent mark over 70 games at Triple-A in 2014, which was regarded as a consensus breakout year by the baseball world. Thus, poor strikeout rates aren’t always a reason to write off a prospect entirely.
Meanwhile, Davidson’s career 11.5 percent walk rate is actually above average meaning he’s not a total free swinger with no approach.
All of this might make one think that the best route for Davidson is to get regular plate appearances in the minors, but for Chicago he has the potential to be an asset in a line up that at the moment can generate plenty of singles but not much in the way of power.
Right-handed power is coveted in the game right now, and in Matt Davidson the White Sox have a player who just happens to specialize in that skill-set.
So what type of role could Davidson fill on the ’15 squad?
Apr 11, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago White Sox third baseman Conor Gillaspie (12) runs towards home plate during the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Well, the first idea is that he could platoon with Connor Gillaspie at third base. Gillaspie is a career .197 hitter against southpaws, and in contrast Matt Davidson is dominating lefties to a tune of a .345 average and a .724 slugging percentage so far in ’15.
The other idea: Davidson could face lefties at DH in place of Adam LaRoche.
LaRoche is hitting .190 against left-handers this season, but it’s not as if this is a new trend. He’s slowly been tailing off against them as he had uneven splits of .204 and .198 vs. LHP in ’14 and ’13 respectively.
When the White Sox designated righty Dayan Viciedo for assignment over the Winter they clearly didn’t take into consideration that LaRoche is really a platoon bat at this point in his career. I actually believe a LaRoche/Davidson platoon at DH could be quite formidable.
In fact, if Davidson and Beckham consistently got starts against lefties in favor of their left-handed counterparts I think the offense would perform better overall as a whole.
LaRoche is hitting .190 against LHP. Plug in Davidson’s .345 LH-avg. and you’ve got a match made in heaven.
If Davidson is a true source of power in the line-up upon his arrival, then this might even open the door for a Connor Gillaspie trade. Gillaspie’s short, quick swing and ability to turn on a fastball makes him an attractive trade piece that could net at least something in return, maybe even a rotation piece.
Even more so than the practical purposes, there is an intangible aspect as well. The White Sox need a change. Whether it’s at the skipper spot or via a trade for an impact player, something needs to drive life into this team.
I think bringing an energetic rookie like Davidson into the fold could be one solution. It changes the dynamic of a line up that is power hungry after Jose Abreu and gives the White Sox a little more wind in their sails.
The issue with bringing up Davidson is that it likely means the casuality of 4th outfielder J.B. Shuck, who has looked competent in his role thus far. In hindsight, the White Sox could have done without the Emilio Bonifacio signing as Ventura hasn’t been very creative in getting the switch hitter playing time and Beckham has become the team’s primary platoon or pinch hitter choice.
I just don’t see the White Sox cutting ties with him, and paying the rest of his $4 million contract. So if Davidson comes to the South Side, Shuck is the odd man out.
All things considered, this team is on ZzzQuil right now, and Matt Davidson could be just what Chicago needs to wake up.