Friday, March 21, 2014

White Sox' Matt Davidson making late push for roster spot

A week or 10 days ago, I would have said it was a given Conor Gillaspie would be the White Sox third baseman on Opening Day.

I still believe Gillaspie will win the job, but give prospect Matt Davidson credit for making a late push for a roster spot.

Davidson got off to a poor start this spring, collecting just two hits in his first 18 at-bats. However, the 22-year-old has turned it around since, going 8-for-17 with two home runs and six RBIs. That puts him at a respectable 10-for-35 (.286) on the spring. In 37 plate appearances, he has walked twice and struck out seven times.

Strikeouts have been an issue for Davidson in the past. In 2013, he fanned 158 times in 587 combined plate appearances between Triple-A Reno and Arizona. That's a strikeout once every 3.7 plate appearances. This spring, Davidson has struck out once every 5.3 plate appearances. That shows improvement in a small sample size, and I know the Sox want him to make a little more contact.

But despite this recent hot streak, I won't be shocked if Davidson heads down to Triple-A Charlotte to get a little more experience. He has options remaining while Gillaspie does not, and that's always a factor when it comes to roster management.

Gillaspie, for his part, has been decent this spring. He has hit three home runs and posted a reasonable .273/.314/.606 slash line. He's not a long-term solution, but he's an adequate placeholder until the Sox feel Davidson is ready to take over the full-time job -- which I suspect will happen before 2014 is over. I just don't think it will happen right out of the gate.

In case you were wondering, veteran Jeff Keppinger is not a factor in this discussion because he's still injured. His surgically repaired right shoulder in giving him problems, he can't play the field, and the Sox already have a logjam at designated hitter. That renders Keppinger useless, so he'll be starting the season on the disabled list. Ideally, the Sox would be able to trade Keppinger, but an injured player has no value.

The competition at third is down to Gillaspie and Davidson. I think Gillaspie will win it, but Davidson is making the decision a little tougher as camp moves along.

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