Tucker Davidson has a new toy.
When last season began, the Braves lefthander had never really developed a changeup. By the end of last season, he had fallen in love with his newest offspeed pitch.
"In college I couldn't throw a changeup 55 feet. It was terrible," Davidson said on a new episode of the Baseball America podcast. "I finally found a grip I could throw over the plate, then it was 'let's try to get some movement on it.' "
"Once I was comfortable with the grip, I could learn to put sidespin on it. I could learn to take velo off of it," Davidson said. "I started really liking it about August. I fell in love with it. I learned how to put movement on it, change speeds with it. It really helped my fastball because they had to honor it, which helped my curveball more."
The development of Davidson's changeup last year eased the path of the move from the bullpen to the rotation. It also continued what has been a pretty meteoric rise for the Braves' 19th-round pick in 2016.
When Davidson headed to Midland (Texas) JC, he was a lefty who sat in the high 80s. His high school nickname was the Michelin Man. He was 6-foot-2, 240 pounds.
"I think I hit 92 mph once (in high school). I think it was because there were 16 scouts at that game. I was geared up, this was my time to shine. I didn't have the curveball I have now. I didn't have the fastball command. I'm sure the report was good arm, no command," Davidson said.
So Davidson has gotten to work.
"I really had to learn how to eat correctly. I had to take care of my body. I had to lift after bullpens," he said.
As he heads into 2018, Davidson now fills out a baseball uniform. His improved fitness has helped him repeat his delivery more consistently and he's gained velocity with it. He now can sit 90-95 mph and touch 97 as a starter.
“A lot of them I had played with were surprised (with the new fastball). I could feel the ball jumping out of my hand a little better. I was getting later swings. I could get swings up in the zone now. I could get away with things at times," Davidson said.
Some intensive offseason training has helped his fastball get better, but it's the ability to find a third pitch along the way that has turned him into a prospect to watch.
Davidson now ranks 13th on the Baseball America Braves Top 30 Prospects list. If he makes strides in 2018 like he did in 2017, he could rank even higher a year from now.
In the podcast below, J.J. Cooper talks with Braves lefthanded pitching prospect Tucker Davidson about his emergence as a pitcher to watch.