Matt Davidson: 26th Man?

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The Dodgers just won their first spring training game yesterday, and it’s largely because of the quietest addition Friedman made this offseason in Corner fielder/relief pitcher Matt Davidson. On a bad wind day, he still managed to hit the only solo bomb of the game that put the Dodgers up 2-1. So let’s take a quick look at Davidson and how the Dodgers may use him this year.

Highlights

  • Matt Davidson Tools Breakdown
  • Career So Far
  • How He Fits With The Dodgers
  • Conclusion

Davidson Tools

  • Hit: 35

Davidson will never be a .300 hitter in our opinion. The 29 year old can and looks like he’s still improving. His expecting batting average is still improving every year as well as decreasing his K% and Whiff %. He also managed to drastically improve his Zone Contact % in 2020 to get above the MLB average. He Alsop seems to be improving his walk rate, which to us makes him much more valuable on a walk and slug team like the Dodgers. All this being said, he’s working his way towards an average hit grade.

  • Power: 60

But when Davidson does make contact, he uses all 6’3″, 230 pounds of him. His hard hit rate has always been above MLB average. Same goes for his average exit velocity. His launch angle is well above average. About half of his total career hits are for extra bases. Even more impressive in some ways, is that about 25% of all his hits, are home runs. And it’s power to all sides of the field.

He’s hitting a home run about once every 20 at bats in his career so far. His BABIP is also a career .294 because when Davidson hits the ball, he hits it very hard.

  • Field: 50

Fielding wise, Davidson is about as average as possible besides his ability to play multiple positions and specifically for the Dodgers, 3rd base. He also plays 1st, he can pitch, and we imagine he could handle himself in left field ops right field if need be.

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At 3rd he plays the same quality of 3rd base that Mike Moustakas brings. At 1st, he plays to the same success rate as AL MVP, Jose Abreu. As for pitching, he hasn’t had enough chances to really test him, but so far he’s perfect.

  • Arm: 55

What really makes Davidson interesting is his strong arm. As a pitcher he peaked at around 90 MPH and has since regressed to the low to mid 80s.

Still, as a fielder that probably means he can still throw 90+ if he gets momentum behind him. And more importantly he can keep runners in check no matter where he is in the field.

  • Run: 25

We won’t spend long on his speed. He used to rank around the 25th percentile in the league, last year he went all the way down to the 8th percentile. He’s slow. Very slow for a ballplayer.

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Career So Far

Davidson has only played in about 300 MLB games for 1075 plate appearances. In that time he’s slashed .223/.292/.433 with 52 homers, 106 R, 154 RBI, and 85 walks to 368 strikeouts. Overall, nothing to write home about. Even when we saw he’s been unlucky, it wasn’t by much. his expected career line is .221/.317/.445.

But that doesn’t mean Davidson can’t help MLB teams. Especially when you consider the 29 year old has trended in the right direction every year. And he was VERY unlucky in 2020. He slashed .163/.234/.395 when statcast says it should’ve been closer to .237/.319/.495. Thats the difference of a .629 OPS and an .814 OPS. The difference between a negative player, and a positive player.

Overall, Davidson fits the mold of a less naturally talented ballplayer, so he grinds hard. He’s improving every year and has to fight for every MLB at bat he gets. If he can put it all together there is an .850+ OPS utility player here. Plus, he can fill the role of emergency position-player reliever.

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Dodger Fit?

The Dodgers have a plethora of left handed hitters this year, and most of them are starters Even when we look to the bench, most of the immediate options are lefty. Think Rios, Beaty, McKinstry, and even Lux.

Looking at the spring training roster, it seems as if Neuse and Davidson are competing for the last right handed bench spot. The 26th man spot really since most of the lefties seem to have a spot minus Matt Beaty. m sad

The perk of Davidson though, is he can also check off as a reliever for the roster as well. And this time, the Dodgers have plenty of RHP for Davidson to replace possibly. For example, why have Mitch White hold a spot to pitch exclusively in blowouts one way or another, when Davidson can throw those innings andddd give you an MLB at bat.

Aka, it’s possible for Davidson to almost create an extra bench roster spot by doubling as a reliever. This is even more appealing when you consider the Dodgers may have several “starting pitchers” in the pen like May, Gonsolin, Nelson, Jojo, Gonzales, etc.

Since they’re capable of swinging a few innings each appearance, they eat up another reliever worth of innings. This is another way the Dodgers may be able to swing a “smaller” than usual bullpen.

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Finally, he’s actually the ideal hitter to have at the bottom of the on base heavy Dodgers without a DH again. In the 8 spot, Davidson has 4 main outcomes essentially.

He turns over the lineup through a (1) single or a (2) walk. And considering he’s so slow, him getting on base is pretty useless unless he has a pitcher after him to either sacrifice him over, or end the inning. (3) He knocks in runs via homer clearing the bases for the pitcher after him.

Or he most likely (4) strikes out and doesn’t get the job done which is obviously a possibility for everyone. The one downside is for the rare sacrifice chances for Davidson in the 8 hole.

Conclusion

We actually think that Davidson is a great fit for the Dodgers. His unique skillset actually puts him in a great position to help the pitching heavy Dodgers add more bench depth in a year without the DH. Well played Friedman. Keep an eye on Davidson this spring, especially if they give him multiple opportunities on the mound.

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