Diamondbacks' Davidson Happy To Shelve DH Role
For the last month of last season, Matt Davidson was able to escape his shadow in the Diamondbacks organization.
After splitting time at low Class A South Bend between third base and DH with fellow 2009 first-round pick Bobby Borchering, Davidson received a promotion to high Class A Visalia.
While he struggled at the plate, hitting .169/.298/.268 in 21 games, Davidson said it was only then that he felt the most comfortable in the field.
"I felt better than I ever have before," he said. "I played the best I can. You can only get better on the field."
Now, however, Davidson is back in Visalia, and he and Borchering are back in the same clubhouse. The Diamondbacks' plan is to once again have the pair split time at third base. But DH will no longer be their main alternative. The player not manning the hot corner will most often be found across the diamond at first base (with the occasional DH duties mixed in as well).
For Davidson, the prospect of ditching DH is a welcome one.
"I really want to be on the field," he said. "I feel like a complete player being on the field. That's why you play the game."
Davidson and Borchering have been tied together since draft day in 2009. The Diamondbacks held the 16th overall pick and three picks in the supplemental round.
With their first selection, they choose Borchering, a third baseman from Bishop Verot High in Fort Myers, Fla.
Arizona took Davidson 19 picks later, adding another high school third baseman, this one from Yucaipa (Calif.) High.
The more highly regarded prospect at the time, Borchering was one of the best high school hitters in the draft that year. Not only was he picked higher, he also received double Davidson's signing bonus. He entered 2010 as the Diamondbacks' No. 2 prospect. Davidson ranked 10th.
But after Davidson passed Borchering after his breakout 2010 at South Bend, where he hit .289/.371/.504 with 16 home runs in 415 at-bats. Davidson shot up to No. 99 in the Top 100 and third in the organization. Borchering's .270/.341/.423 and concerns about his ability to remain at third base saw his star status take a tumble. He slid to No. 7 in Arizona's ranking.
Yet, their futures remain deeply intertwined. The Diamondbacks view both as potential major leaguers, and Jerry DiPoto, Arizona's executive vice president of scouting and player development, said no advantage would be gained from holding either one back a level this season. So they are back in their timeshare at third base, this time at Visalia instead of South Bend.
"We're committed to giving both the opportunity to be major league third basemen," DiPoto said. "If they're both to play for the Arizona Diamondbacks they may run into this problem for years."
The competition is a friendly one, and Davidson said he likes the opportunity to go head-to-head with his biggest rival in the system every day.
"We're good friends and teammates," Davidson said. "It's just a great competition between each other. It's a unique situation for us that we get competition every day when we come to the clubhouse and every day at 7 o'clock when a scout comes in.
"I think it's a great situation. We're blessed to have that competition and always have to be on your toes."
They each hit well for the Silver Hawks, but Davidson's season was better than Borchering's and earned him an early promotion. It was an aggressive move by the Diamondbacks at the time, and remains one now. Davidson is the seventh-youngest player in the California League this year, having turned 20 two weeks before Opening Day.
"The Cal League was certainly a challenge for Matt," DiPoto said. "He was one of the youngest guys when he got there, and both will be among the youngest again this year."
Now starting their second full professional seasons, Davidson and Borchering are ready to continue their progression to the big leagues.
The Cal League is known as a hitter's haver, and sluggers like Davidson and Borchering have the ability to post big numbers in Visalia this season. DiPoto said coming out of the draft, both Davidson and Borchering were two of the top power bats the Diamondbacks had identified.
They have different styles at the plate, largely because Borchering is a switch-hitter, but DiPoto said both could become middle-of-the-order hitters in the major leagues. It will just take time.
"They're kind of at the runway stage of development," he said. "We're going to let them go down the runway. I have no doubt they will continue to progress forward."
Borchering said the most important thing for his offensive development this season is getting consistent opportunities, which the Diamondbacks plan to make happen.
"I want to hit every day," he said. "The most important thing is going in and getting the at-bats."
Though having two highly touted prospects at the same stage of development may take a little more effort to juggle, DiPoto is happy to do the work necessary to develop Davidson and Borchering.
"We're in a very good position," he said. "It's a nice problem to have two guys we feel like are middle-of-the-order major league hitters who are third basemen. It's difficult to find complete packages at third base, and as they progress we'll find out if they are. But I have absolute faith they are where they need to be in development right now."