Tuesday, April 7, 2015

White Sox prospect Matt Davidson hoping for a return to form in 2015

It’s remarkable the difference a year can make.

Matt Davidson arrived in Charlotte in 2014 as the Knights most-exciting prospect. For three-straight seasons his name had appeared on Baseball America’s list of the Top 100 Prospects in the game (reaching as high as No. 72 in 2013).

Things were trending in the right direction for the former No. 35 overall pick in 2009.

The Chicago White Sox thought enough of the power-hitting third baseman that they were willing to send closer Addison Reed to the Arizona Diamondbacks as compensation for Davidson’s services.

What happened next was a disaster.

Davidson – who entered the year a .268 career minor-league hitter -- turned in one of the worst seasons of any White Sox minor leaguer, hitting just .199, while striking out in a cringe-worthy 34.3 percent of his at bats.

This season, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound 24-year-old arrived in Charlotte without any fan fair, as seemingly written off by White Sox fans as Reed.
In 2014, he had arrived in Charlotte disappointed to have not made the White Sox. High expectations, combined with some off-the-field personal issues left him numb entering the year, and a slow first month only made things worse.

“I think I just had a lot of things going on in my head and there was some other stuff on top of that,” said Davidson. “I almost kind of took a passive approach to my season and my life during those six-seven months.

“There were little things that I just didn’t take that aggressive approach towards,” Davidson continued. “Now, just having the offseason to kind of forget about things, I feel like I’ve got that energy back and I’m just ready with a different mind set this year.”

Knights hitting coach Andy Tomberlin took a moment to talk about Davidson on Tuesday.

“If you’re struggling, it can be tough,” he said. “Every day when you look up at the scoreboard after they announce your name and your batting average isn’t what you’d like, it gives you a little gut check. Now he’s got a clean slate and knows there are a lot of good things ahead of him and a bright future there.”

The silver lining of last season (if you can call it that) was that it allowed Davidson to come to Spring Training this season fully expecting to break camp with Charlotte. After recording two hits in 14 at-bats with the White Sox (he was limited by a sore left shoulder), he was reassigned to the minor league camp.

This time, the news didn’t shake him up. 

“We pretty much knew for a fact that I was coming back (to Charlotte)," he said. "So, I just wanted to make sure that I was mentally ready to be here and I feel like I’ve accomplished that.”

Mechanically, Tomberlin hasn’t tinkered too much with Davidson’s swing.

“There are guys that are going to swing and miss,” Tomberlin said. “But, I think that the way he swings and misses, he’s going to tighten up on a lot of that. I think that some of the balls that he was fouling off last season, he’s going to connect with.

“Matt is using simpler moves this year. He was getting pretty big with things last year and I think that’s where it started to show that he was trying to do too much. The game will tell you that you need to make adjustments.

“It’s also important," Tomberlin said in his most Zen-masterish of tones, "to not look past the baseball.”

From the sounds of things, Davidson’s taking his coach’s advice to heart.

“I still remember not having much of a feeling for Opening Day last year and I think just the fact that I’m really excited this year is a huge telling point of where I’m at,” Davidson said. “I’m just really excited to play baseball again. I’m glad to be back in a great position and I’m ready to start the year.”

The question now is, what kind of a difference will this year make?