Showing posts with label Matt Davidson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Matt Davidson. Show all posts

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.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sports Illustrated gives White Sox, Royals high marks for offseason moves

It isn't too often the White Sox earn praise from the national media, so I found it interesting Sports Illustrated gave GM Rick Hahn an A- for his offseason moves.

The Kansas City Royals were the only other American League club to earn an A- from the publication.

This offseason, the Sox signed free agent first baseman Jose Abreu, acquired center fielder Adam Eaton from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a three-team trade that sent pitcher Hector Santiago to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and picked up third baseman Matt Davidson from the Diamondbacks in exchange for closer Addison Reed.

The Sox also added free agent pitcher Felipe Paulino and fortified their bullpen by signing veterans Ronald Belisario, Scott Downs and Mitchell Boggs.

"Chicago still has questions about how much offense it will get at catcher and in the middle infield, but there’s no doubting that general manager Rick Hahn has had a very good winter," wrote Joe Lemire of SI.

The Royals drew praise for fixing their two major positional weaknesses -- right field and second base. Right fielder Norichika Aoki was acquired in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers, and veteran Omar Infante was signed to address the issue at second base.

Kansas City signed left-handed pitcher Jason Vargas to take the spot in the rotation vacated by free agent Ervin Santana and also retained starting pitcher Bruce Chen. The Royals also picked up former Twins third baseman Danny Valencia, who could form a platoon with Mike Moustakas, who has had his troubles hitting left-handed pitching in the past.

"Coming off their first winning season since 2003, the Royals effectively targeted their needs," Lemire said.  

On the National League side, the Cubs received a C after a mostly quiet offseason in terms of roster moves. The North Siders added starting pitcher Jason Hammel, relievers Wesley Wright and Jose Veras and backup catcher George Kottaras. They also acquired outfielder Justin Ruggiano from the Miami Marlins in exchange for outfielder Brian Bogusevic.

The main offseason news for the Cubs was the hiring of manager Rick Renteria, whom they hope will do a better job of mentoring young players than the fired Dale Sveum.

SI's Cliff Corcoran wrote Renteria's hiring is "a move [the Cubs] hope will prove to be their most significant of the offseason."

Who won the offseason in the National League? SI says it was the St. Louis Cardinals, the defending league champions.

The Cardinals earned an A+ after remaking their infield. St. Louis signed free agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta and traded third baseman David Freese in order to move Matt Carpenter from second base over to the hot corner. They also added veteran Mark Ellis, who gives them insurance in the event Kolten Wong fails to earn the second base job. They also upgraded their outfield defense with the addition of Peter Bourjos, who was acquired from the Angels in the Freese deal.

"Thanks to their strong farm system, the Cardinals were able to have a practically perfect offseason," Corcoran wrote.  

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How will the White Sox solve their logjam at third base?

Just over two weeks from now, pitchers and catchers will report to White Sox camp. So, it isn't too early to talk about some of the storylines we'll be following during spring training.

First and foremost in my mind will be the situation at third base, where the Sox all of a sudden have quite a logjam. Jeff Keppinger and Conor Gillaspie got the overwhelming majority of the starts at the position last year, and both are still on the 40-man roster. The Sox also acquired 22-year-old Matt Davidson from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for closer Addison Reed in an offseason trade.

There's no question the Sox hope Davidson is the long-term answer at the position. New hitting coach Todd Steverson has been working with Davidson on hitting the ball to all fields. The Sox seem ready to accept that Davidson will strike out quite a bit, but the belief is his extra-base power will translate against major league pitching.

That said, it's an open question whether Davidson will be the starting third baseman when the Sox open the season March 31 against the Minnesota Twins. I'll be interested to see how he hits in spring. My guess is Davidson will need to have a good March in order to make the 25-man roster, because there isn't room enough for all three of Keppinger, Gillaspie and Davidson.

Of the three, Davidson is the only one you're going to send back to the minors for more seasoning. Certainly, he is not going to sit on the bench at the big-league level.

Ideally, the Sox would trade Keppinger (pictured), but that could be a tall order now because the veteran is coming off a career-worst .253/.283/.317 season. He also has two years and $8.5 million remaining on his contract. The same reasons White Sox fans want him gone are the same reasons another team might not be willing to take him.

There are a couple things to like about Gillaspie: First, he's a left-handed hitter, and second, he has a short swing, which makes it a little easier to stay sharp if he's asked to fill a part-time role. Gillaspie showed improvement defensively last season, and I think the Sox were happy about that.

Still, Gillaspie is the odd man out if Davidson proves he's ready to handle the position full time and Keppinger's contract proves to be unmovable.

The ideal scenario is Davidson wins the everyday job, Keppinger gets traded and Gillaspie fills a bench role. But finding a way to unload Keppinger is the key.

Another distinct possibility is Davidson goes back the minors, the Sox play Keppinger at third base every day in hopes of rebuilding his trade value, and Gillaspie fills a bench role. Under that scenario, you pray Keppinger plays well enough that he can be moved midseason, and then Davidson comes up to take the full-time job at third base in July.

This logjam could be solved in multiple ways. We'll see how the Sox handle it.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Jose Abreu, other White Sox prospects hit the field in Glendale

The biggest curiosity surrounding the White Sox coming into 2014 has to be newly signed Cuban slugger Jose Abreu. How much of an impact will he make in his first season in the United States? Nobody knows, but we all know he needs to be good if the Sox have any hope of hanging around in the AL Central race this year.

The Sox are getting a look at Abreu and some of their other young players this week at a three-day hitting camp at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz. Newly acquired third baseman Matt Davidson and center fielder Adam Eaton also are participating, along with Josh Phegley, Marcus Semien, Courtney Hawkins, Jared Mitchell, Trayce Thompson and Keenyn Walker.

According to a report by CSN's Dan Hayes, the Sox are pleased with what they've seen from Abreu so far. Of course, what else would they say? Even if he looked bad, they would still say he looked good. But now is the time of year for optimism, and Sox fans can hope Abreu's prodigious power will come to the forefront when the season begins March 31.

“That’s a strong man right here,” new hitting coach Todd Steverson said of Abreu. “That’s a big man. He has a nice smooth, compact approach. He didn’t try to do too much with the ball and the ball was flying off his bat. I think he has a nice bright future coming up with him.”

“We try to keep in mind that it’s Jan. 14 and we still have a ways to go,” GM Rick Hahn added in Hayes' report. “But just watching Jose go through his work, you saw that professionalism as well as the plus-plus power on display today in only his first couple of rounds of BP. He’s a very serious hitter. He’s one who goes up there with a plan and has a great deal of ability and it’s going to be fun to see how this plays out over the next couple of years.”

It's good to hear that Abreu goes to the plate with a plan. The same couldn't be said of a lot of White Sox hitters last year. Hopefully, Steverson can help in that regard. After scoring a league-worst 598 runs last year, the Sox have nowhere to go but up offensively.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

White Sox have post-holiday clearance items for sale

White Sox GM Rick Hahn has come a long way in reshaping his roster since last year's trade deadline, adding MLB-ready prospects at third base (Matt Davidson), center field (Adam Eaton) and right field (Avisail Garcia), while adding a handful of other potentially useful parts.

Don't forget the bow.
The turnover might not be over as the Sox still have some players that might be more useful to other teams, and could fetch something interesting in return.

Here are the guys who weren't tucked into another team's stocking and will have their price marked down.

Alejandro De Aza (OF)
This is the guy I think the Sox are most likely to trade. De Aza is either a good-hitting, poor-fielding centerfielder, or a poor-hitting, good-fielding left fielder. With the addition of Eaton, De Aza is now in a platoon with Dayan Viciedo in left. De Aza is probably the better player, hitting just as well as Viciedo while also being able to catch the ball, but that he could still slot into left or center gives a team a little more flexibility, and maybe opens up more trade avenues.

Gordon Beckham (2B)
Top infield prospects Marcus Semien was ticketed to play third base until the acquisition of Davidson, but now if the Sox think he's MLB-ready, they might move Beckham to install Semien at second base. Beckham, a former top-10 draft pick, had star potential. Right now he might just be what he's been, which is an OK hitting, good-fielding second baseman. That's not very sexy, but with two years left before free agency and the Sox looking to move him, Beckham might be a more attractive pickup for a 2B-needy team that doesn't like what's left on the free agent market, or the idea of swallowing the huge contracts of other potential trade targets like Brandon Phillips, Rickie Weeks or Dan Uggla.

Dayan Viciedo (OF/DH)
As noted, he's a worse player than De Aza, and shouldn't be in the outfield. He is younger and cheaper for now, and maybe still has potential if he can improve his hitting against right-handed pitching. While the Sox will listen, I doubt he'll be moved unless another team overpays, especially if he's being counted on to help fellow Cuban Jose Abreu adjust to life in the US.

Alexei Ramirez (SS)
Ramirez is a fine shortstop signed to a reasonable contract (2 years, $20.5 million left, plus an option). He can hit a little and is a good defender. He is better than the top in-house alternative, Leury Garcia, who can't hit even by middle-infielder standards. But if the Sox aren't going to contend, they might want to install Garcia at short where his excellent defense will have the most impact and just give him the at-bats to see if that part of his game can ever become adequate enough to make him a starter. Like Viciedo, the Cuban Ramirez might help with Abreu's integration in the clubhouse, but the Sox might not feel like they need both of them to hang around to make Abreu comfortable. Ramirez can go for the right price.

Adam Dunn (1B/DH)
Dunn has been a disappointment since signing a four-year, $56 million contract. He is in the last year of it, and still hits well against right-handed pitchers. If the White Sox ate a good chunk of his salary, he could be moved to clear room for Viciedo. If that's unlikely, it's because the Sox don't like to pay guys to play for other teams. Plus Viciedo isn't an ideal platoon partner for the re-signed Paul Konerko as they both need help against righties. Still, if a team desperate for a designated hitter or first baseman offered to go halfsies on the remainder of the contract, it's hard to see the Sox saying no.

John Danks (SP)
Danks is another guy who might not go anywhere because the Sox won't eat any money on the contract. He's got three years and $43 million left. That sounds like a lot for a guy that just posted a 4.75 ERA while coming back from shoulder surgery. Those results still weren't that much worse than Jason Vargas' last season, or Phil Hughes', both of whom just got big bucks in free agency, and both have worse track records than pre-surgery Danks. The Sox might not have to eat that much to move him this offseason, but might just wait to give him the chance to pitch this season and prove he's healthier and worth a team taking on a much better chunk of salary.


Monday, December 16, 2013

White Sox trade Addison Reed to Arizona for Matt Davidson

The White Sox rebuilding efforts continued Monday as the team traded closer Addison Reed to the Arizona Diamondbacks for third baseman Matt Davidson.

Davidson, 22, appeared in 31 games at the big-league level last year. He spent most of the season at Triple-A Reno, where his numbers were good. He posted a .280/.350/.481 slash line with 17 home runs and 74 RBIs. He was a Pacific Coast League midseason All-Star and was named MVP of the Futures Game in New York after hitting a go-ahead, two-run home run for the United States.

One question mark with Davidson is his defense. His fielding percentage sits at just .925 during his minor league career. That's not particularly good, but Sox fans might remember that Robin Ventura wasn't exactly Gold Glove material when he first came to the major leagues. As a 21-year-old third baseman in Double A, Ventura's fielding percentage was .930, not much better than Davidson's. Through hard work, Ventura became an elite defensive player. While I would never forecast that for Davidson, he will have an opportunity to improve his craft defensively if he listens to his new manager.

I like this move by White Sox manager Rick Hahn, who continues to add major league ready youngsters to his roster. Davidson has a chance to open the season as the everyday third baseman. If he does, he'll join Adam Eaton, Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia in a lineup that is getting younger and more athletic with each passing week. For my money, this is how you rebuild a team.

Sure, losing Reed hurts. He had 40 saves on a bad team in 2013. He's only 24 years old, so he still has some upside. He will help an Arizona team that is trying to position itself to win next year. The Sox, in contrast, are not likely to contend in 2014, so it doesn't matter much who their closer is. Maybe Nate Jones wins that job, or perhaps Daniel Webb takes the next step in his development and earns the position.

Either way, if you're the White Sox right now, a potential everyday third baseman is a much bigger priority than a closer. That's why Hahn made this swap. I agree with the reasoning.