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Phillies 2014 Draft Preview - Braxton Davidson, 1B

Davidson has the best in game power in the 2014 Draft. He could be a true middle of the order impact bat.

Last year I said there was no more volatile position in the MLB June draft than High School Shortstop. That's true, but High School First basebman is among the most volatile and rare. Here are the players drafted in Round 1 and listed as playing First (some were listed at multiple positions, i.e. 1B/OF): Christian Yelich, Eris Hosmer, Hank Sanchez,Prince Fielder, James Loney, Casey Kotchman, Adrian Gonzalez, Chris Duncan, Ben Diggins, J.J. Davis, Jack Cust, Thomas Pittman, A.J. Zapp, Terrence Long, Derrek Lee, Charles Rice, Cliff Floyd. That's 20 years of drafts and some of the names are better known at positions other than First (Yelich, Floyd). Eliminating those 2, there are 15 First Basemen in 20 years of Drafts in the First Round. Of those, Fielder and AGonz are bonafide stars; Loney, Hosmer and Lee are/were serviceable (Lee did have some very good seasons in Chicago). the rest were largely busts. Now, 5 succeses and 10 busts actually isn't all that unusual at any position, but 15 guys in 20 years is probably second only to Second in rarity. There are essentially two guys who get listed as "1st" for their position: Statues who can cream the ball and Left handers who can field, but can't play the other infield spots due to their handedness. Davidson falls into the second group, mostly.

Braxton is a 6'3", 215lb High School Senior from the Asheville, NC area. He's not the masher that Gatewood projects to be, but he's presently a much better hitter than Gatewood and for that reason shows much more in game power. He's not as overall athletic as Gatewood, but he's roughly an average runner and should be an average defender in Right Field (and probably at First, as he fills out). What makes Davidson intriguing is that it's very easy to picture a guy who could regularly put up a .300/.380/.480 line in the Majors (roughly Matt Holliday-ish) and is a pretty safe bet to be a good major league regular, even if he doesn't quite reach that triple slash regularly.

I love this video below. Davidson is so quiet in the box. The tiniest of toe taps. No stride, he loads his hands before his swing starts and he still displays elite bat speed. His swing stays in the zone for plenty of time and he has just enough uppercut to generate lift. He hits to all fields and he has exquisite pitch recognition. There is literally not one thing in his swing that needs to change and that's rare - even for College hitters, not to mention a High School Senior. Around the 4 minute mark, Davidson is seen in game action. I count 17 pitches and, amazingly for a 17 year old, 11 pitches he doesn't swing at and only one of those is called a Strike by the Ump (that we can see on video, others may have had the Ump's call edited out, but only one looks like a strike). He swings 6 times, once for what looks like big contact, once for a groundball that looks fair off the bat and a few times at the end that look like the defensive swings a hitter will take to stay alive in an AB, with a shorter stroke.

Now, you should never make too much of 5 minutes of video of a prospect hitting (especially when most of it is BP and a HR derby), but this all backs up several scouting reports of a kid with a very advanced approach, pitch recognition and above average power. It's also best to take with a grain of salt. Davidson has excellent recognition of High School fastballs, breaking balls and changeups. That's a far cry from pro pitching, it's much more advanced than his peers, but it's not a guarantee of pro success.

It's entirely possible the pants in this next video are the single ugliest thing a team has ever consciously decided on for part of a uniform. Look past that, there's lots of in game hitting here. A mix of hits the opposite way, up the middle and pull and a good eye to lay off a few pitches. Again, like I said on the last video don't read too much into the video, but it's always nice to see these guys hitting and really that swing is my favorite in the probably 70 or 80 videos I've watched the last 2 years doing draft write-ups and reviewing guys who were picked.

It's easy to get excited about guys with all kinds of Athletic ability and make no mistake, if Jake Gatewood actually hits, he has a higher ceiling and will play a much more valuable fielding position. Trea Turner has game changing speed and should hit enough to use it. Tyler Beede can anchor a staff and may be a Cy Young contender in his prime. You're buying a really, really high floor with Davidson and a ceiling that would still make him an All Star. Davidson is probably the safest pick in the Draft, but it could be really hard to avoid the allure of potential big prizes available this year. Plus Pitching, given the system, it will be hard to not take a top quality Pitcher this summer.