A couple weeks ago Baseball America published a mock draft with the Phillies taking the Clemson Shortstop, so I’ll take a look at him here, so we can all maybe learn a bit about him. Davidson is a 6’3” 190 lb switch hitter and, as mentioned above, shortstop for Clemson University. He was previously drafted out of High School in the 30th round in 2016 by the Phillies. At the time he had been ranked #131 by Baseball America and was seen as a solid defensive player who needed to work on his hit tool.
Since arriving at Clemson, Davidson has been a bit Jeckyl and Hyde. He is very Dr. Jeckyl at Clemson where his 3 year triple slash is .293/.404/.529. His K rates approach 20%, but he has shown the power to allow teams to make that less of a red flag, especially combined with a walk rate in the 14-15% range. He turns into Mr. Hyde during wood bat leagues where in 2 years in the Cape Cod League he has a .202/.304/.266 line with a 26% K rate and 11% BB rate with 3 total Home Runs.
A team could see these numbers a few ways. First, the newer BBCOR bats aren’t the old College aluminum bats, so a guy struggling on the Cape might just be tired or have a run of bad luck. The second way to see it is, a guy would have to be awfully unlucky to have 2 separate, really miserable wood bat seasons due solely to luck and if he’s tired, does that say something about conditioning. Additionally, while BBCOR is more like wood, it’s still not wood and what would be historically poor performance for a First Round pick in the Cape Cod League should be more than a red flag, it should be a red banner pulled behind a plane over the Jersey shore.
To cover his tools a bit more specifically, his defense at Short is a work in progress, but he’s very athletic and has just enough arm for the position. A transition to Third is possible, but he has above average to plus power, so if he can get the hitting ironed out, his bat profiles fine at the hot corner. He’s an above average runner, but not particularly aggressive as a baserunner (though his success rate on stolen bases is pretty good).
On to video from Perfect Game, and I’ll be honest, there’s a lot to like in Davidson’t swing. His head stays pretty level, he doesn’t have a lot of moving parts and though I’ve seen reports of a long swing, it doesn’t look particularly long to my eyes. He uses a small toe tap to a small kick from the left side and keeps his hands low in his load. He gets good leverage and his bat is plenty fast. He’s a the rare switch hitter who’s swing looks almost the same from the opposite side, though as a right handed hitter he does load the bat more with more wiggle and I can see complaints of a slightly long swing on this side.
I kind of wish Davidson’s swing was a mess and I could point to lots of head movement causing the swing and miss issues or an overly aggressive load or leg kick messing up his timing. I don’t think the fix for Davidson is mechanical, it’s pitch recognition and I’m not sure there’s a flaw in baseball that’s harder to fix.
For Davidson it all comes down to belief in the hit tool. I’d say the track record of having been a prior Phillies pick is a good indicator he’d be a target, but I think that’s just something writers like to point to. For one thing that was an almost entirely different regime and secondly the Phillies just don’t have much history of doing that. They took a late round flier on Cavan Biggio out of High School, but didn’t take him out of College despite having a few rounds of picks to do so. They similarly drafted Kyle Freeland out of High School, he turned into an excellent Pitcher in College and the Phillies took Aaron Nola over him. So the draft pedigree is more a curious fact that any indicator.
In case it’s not clear from everything written here I would not draft Davidson anywhere in the First Round. The raw tools are there to make him a good player to take a chance on in the Second Round (where the Phillies have no pick), but the approach and the wood bat track record are enough to scare me off. Someone may take him and end up with a steal. I’m perfectly okay with that.