There are a lot of perks being in this industry. Money is not one of them. However, One of the things that I most enjoy is hanging around the cage and listening to the chatter. The back-and-forth smack talking amongst players and coaches is especially intriguing. I’ll get to some of that later but first I wanted to share a conversation with Braxton Davidson.
Davidson was selected by the Braves in the first round of the 2014 draft. That was 3 GMs ago. I told him it felt like he has been in the organization for 10 years. He agreed. It has felt like he has been around for a long time. But Davidson is only 22. He is still young enough to turn his career around.
Davidson was very open about his struggles. He made it to High A in 2016 and has seen his slash lines regress each year. While the power showed up in 2018 with 20 HR, what good is it at the expense of a .171 average with a 44% K rate?
I have seen a lot of Davidson the past two years. He told me that his struggles really stemmed from pitch recognition and guessing pitches. That confirms what I had seen. Davidson was always late on the fastball and early on the off-speed. The only pitch he could get to was fastballs in. With each season, his swing got longer and longer.
In Arizona, Davidson has changed approach. He talked about guessing location instead of pitches and reacting to location. Keeping his front shoulder closed and trusting his hands. This has allowed him to stay on the ball longer. Additionally, he talked about staying short to the ball and focusing on CF-LCF with his approach. Davidson has plus raw power that has been negated in games due to the swing-and-miss issues. Do strike outs matter if he were to hit .250 with 35 HR? According to Davidson, they still do. He talked about the need to shorten up with two strikes and just make contact.
So far the results have been tremendous. Davdison’s power plays to all fields. He said that if he could hit 20 HR while hitting .171, how many could he hit if he could get to .250? In Arizona, things started slow. “I was like 0-11 with 8 strikeouts before things started to change". But it isn’t how you start, it’s how you finish. In his final 10 games, Davidson slashed .289/.372/.737 with 5 HR, 5 BB, and 15 K. His fall turnaround culminated with a walk-off blast in the AFL Championship game.
We talked about what comes next for him. He mentioned his hope of staying with the Braves. If the Braves don’t protect him, he will be eligible for the Rule 5. He wants the Braves to challenge him in 2019 with a promotion at AA. He talked about how good the Braves are going to be and he wants to be a part of that. Davidson would know. Every top prospect the Braves have has been Davidson’s teammate at some point in his three years at High A. He suffered a foot injury after hitting his walk-off but he should be ready to go by Spring Training.
I remember sitting next to a scout who follows the Braves minors. There are few hitters in the organization with his profile and none of them are firstbaseman. “Not everybody is Acuna or Kirilloff.” This game is hard and it’s about learning and adapting. Player development is a process and Braxton checked off a lot of boxes in Arizona.
In Salt River, Bobby Dalbec’s last swing of BP resulted in a 420+ blast to dead CF. Jahmai Jones was next up and said “I got to follow 420 to dead CF?!?!?” Jones proceeded to outdistance Dalbec with his next two swings to CF and then blasted his third and final swing to LCF. Daz Cameron: “This man out here dropping tanks!” Jones’ raw power is impressive to say the least.