Several factors leave him with long odds, but third baseman Matt Davidson still could make the White Sox Opening Day roster.
Even though his all-around play needs to improve and Jeff Keppinger and Conor Gillaspie are ahead of him on the depth chart, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said on Tuesday that Davidson could start 2014 in the big leagues.
Davidson, who was acquired in December from Arizona for closer Addison Reed, is listed among the top-100 prospects in baseball by several publications.
MLB.com ranks Davidson as the No. 80 prospect while ESPN.com’s Keith Law rated him No. 88. Davidson, 22, is also listed as the No. 4 prospect in the White Sox system per Baseball America.
“It certainly is possible he breaks with us Opening Day, but if that’s not the case we’ll see a lot of him this season once we feel he truly is ready,” Hahn said on MLB Network’s ‘Clubhouse Confidential.’ “There’s still a few areas he’s going to improve in and we need to see some refinement.”
One area the White Sox need to see progress from Davidson is in his footwork at third base. A pitcher-first in high school, Davidson didn’t become a primary third baseman until late in his prep career and is behind the curve enough that the Diamondbacks didn’t see him sticking at third base.
While Davidson knows he needs to be better, he said in December he's confident he can improve. White Sox manager Robin Ventura also believes Davidson — the 35th overall pick of the 2009 amateur draft — can make the necessary adjustments after the two worked together at last month’s mini-camp in Glendale, Ariz.
“He has every reason to go in there and try to win the job,” Ventura said last month. “He moves around better than what the reports were. He can hit and has the power and everything else. Defensively, I got that rap too for a while. So I'm not worried about that.”
Davidson, who turns 23 in March, reached the majors last season and had a .237/.333/.434 slash line with three home runs and 12 RBIs in 87 plate appearances. While he walked 10 times, Davidson also struck out 24.
He also whiffed 134 times in 115 games at Triple-A Reno last season to accompany a .280/.350/.481 line with 17 homers and 74 RBIs. The White Sox can accept Davidson will strikeout as part of his makeup as a power hitter, but wouldn’t mind if his approach is seasoned a bit more before he is an everyday player.
Because Keppinger, who has two years left on his contract, and Gillaspie, who is out of options, are ahead of Davidson on the depth chart, the White Sox don’t have to force the rookie to start right away.
They can afford to not rush him.
But were Davidson to have a monster showing this spring he very well could end up in the majors to start 2014. No matter when he arrives, Hahn said the White Sox are confident they have a long-term solution at third.
“Whenever his White Sox career does start at the big league level, we think he’s going to be here for a long time,” Hahn said, “whether that’s Opening Day 2014 or part way through next season.”