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Tucker Davidson Rises Up The Ranks



As Braves pitchers continue graduating from one of baseball’s best systems, it always seems another is around the corner. Tucker Davidson is the latest riser.

Davidson, who’s yet to rapidly ascend prospect rankings like many before him, could soon start registering on the radar. The 23-year-old pitched eight shutout innings, striking out nine and not issuing a walk in his start for Double-A Mississippi on July 18. The outing exhibited every reason to be optimistic about Davidson’s future.

The lefty’s repertoire features a fastball sitting in the low to mid-90s and a trio of complementary offspeed pitches, including a curveball that boasts potential but for now remains unpredictable. Davidson’s command will set his ceiling, and how he hones those pitches will determine if he’s a starter or reliever long term.

Davison was a 19th-round pick in 2016. This level of progression wasn’t expected from a player overshadowed by the batch of high-level arms ahead of him, but 2019 has marked a true breakout year for the Texas native.

He averages more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings with a 51 percent ground-ball rate. Opponents are hitting .223 against him through his first 18 starts this season, by far the best results he’s garnered in his minor league career. In that span, he’s struck out 104 batters in 92.2 innings, but the walks (39) still stand out as the biggest reason for pause.

The Braves are thrilled with Davidson’s growth. Despite a logjam at Triple-A that will prevent other promotions, Davidson is expected to join that level later this summer and will be a candidate for a callup to the bigs in September.

Helping that case: Davidson is Rule 5 eligible in December, meaning the team will need to add him to the 40-man to protect him. The team has a bevy of players to protect, however, which may prevent them from adding Davidson onto the roster during the season.

Given the team’s reluctance to part with its higher-rated arms, Davidson could be a more expendable asset as the Braves try to add pieces to a contending roster at the trade deadline and next winter. As the organization is well-aware, pitching is volatile and there are only so many spots for their collection of arms.

NOTES

— One player who surely won’t be traded under realistic circumstances: Cristian Pache. The Braves’ top outfield prospect has emerged offensively, with his 11 homers this season already a career high.

Pache, a defensive savant, could man centerfield in Atlanta as early as Opening Day 2020. The Braves believe the 20-year-old is just scratching the surface of his capabilities, and as such, it’s difficult to envision a scenario where the Braves part with a player expected to be a legitimate contributor in the near future.

Kyle Wright has struggled in his brief taste of the majors. His latest dud—allowing seven runs in 2.2 innings against the Nationals on July 18—was a result of pitching overly conservative and an inability to locate his fastball. Wright’s success in Triple-A, which included a sub-2.00 ERA in his five starts prior to that callup, was built on attacking the zone.

In four major league starts, Wright hasn’t translated that same aggressiveness. It begins and ends with his fastball command, which has trapped him in deep counts resulting in inefficient outings—he’s reached the six-inning plateau just once in four opportunities.

“I just have to do a better job of making them beat me from the get-go,” he said. “Make them put balls in play. We have too good a defense to be walking guys. So that’s the main thing. Attack them, try not to be so refined with that first pitch, second pitch. Just stay out of those deep counts, those disadvantaged counts.”

Riley Greene Markcunninghamgetty

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