Logan Davidson Takes the Reigns at Clemson

Logan Davidson has been under the microscope for a while. Named a potential top-15 pick for the upcoming draft as early as fourteen months ago, Davidson has had plenty of time to be scrutinized by evaluators. In fairness, some of that scrutiny has been warranted. He’s had plenty of work the past couple of years on the Cape, and the results haven’t been pretty. Combine two summers of plate appearances, and you get something akin to a full college season’s worth of playing time. With wood bats against the nation’s top competition, Davidson hit only .202/.304/.266. If anything, his platform season on the Cape was even more difficult than his post-freshman effort.

You wouldn’t know it from watching Davidson at Clemson, though. The fifth-best returning hitter in the ACC, per Robert Frey’s advanced metrics, Davidson is off to the best start of his career. He’s got career-best slash marks across the board, hitting .304/.430/.598 as the Tigers’ everyday shortstop. Those numbers might come down as Clemson gets deeper into conference play, but 2019 is shaping up as his best college effort to date. That’s mostly about getting high-level reps.

Switch-hitters like Davidson can understandably take longer to develop at the plate. Not only do they have to nurture two pairs of swing mechanics, they must adjust to different angles depending on the opposing pitcher’s handedness. Davidson has been taking twice the reps for as long as he can remember. Still, youth baseball didn’t offer him the chance to hone both swings against high-level pitching.

“I got quite a few more at-bats from the left side playing travel ball growing up, so I was always more comfortable from the left side of the plate,” Davidson acknowledged. “When college came around, I saw more lefties.” That proved an adjustment, at least initially. “Freshman year, I struggled from the right side of the plate. That was probably due to the fact that I hadn’t seen many lefties in my life. That was probably the main thing that I’ve improved on since I’ve been (in school).”

Splits data at the college level are hard to come by, but they wouldn’t be of use anyway. Single-season handedness splits aren’t statistically meaningful, especially at the college level, where the quality of pitching faced in a small sample is highly variable. The eye test and the hitter’s own understanding of how he’s feeling are much more important. To that end, Davidson indeed seems to still be more comfortable hitting from the left side.

Against Boston College, Davidson showed more bat speed and more natural timing against right-handed pitching. Working with a quiet toe tap in each swing, his weight transfer was more explosive hitting left-handed. Throughout the series, Davidson laced hard contact line-to-line from that side of the dish.

While Davidson opined that he’s closed the gap since his freshman year, he left some room for inference that’s not completely the case. “Usually, whichever side I’m getting the most at-bats from is the side I feel most comfortable from,” Davidson allowed. “It’ll swing from each side to the other.” At all levels of baseball, right-handed pitching is most prevalent. It seems fair to conclude Davidson’s longstanding favoritism of the lefty batters’ box hasn’t completely waned.

No matter who the opposition runs out on the mound, though, Davidson is the player the Tigers want at the plate with the game on the line. Perhaps no moment in college baseball this season was more dramatic than Davidson’s walk-off home run, with the Tigers down to their final strike, to complete a sweep of No. 3 North Carolina. Performing in pressure-packed environments comes naturally to the junior.

“For me, I do my breathing to focus in big situations with heightened awareness,” he said. “I’ve been there a lot, so that experience over the last couple years definitely helps.”

Davidson certainly looks comfortable in the batter’s box. He’s got fantastic strike zone awareness, manifesting itself in a career 14.8% walk rate in college. Even on the Cape, where Davidson’s aforementioned struggles at the plate could have torn down some hitters, he continued to take his walks. Combine his feel for the game with above-average power and plus speed, and Davidson has a solid first-round floor. Preseason, Prospects Live ranked Davidson 47th in the 2019 class. Given his early-season production, he seems certain to rise on the next update.

Clemson has an upcoming slate against some of the top pitching prospects in the country. Louisville’s Reid Detmers and Florida State’s C.J. Van Eyk are two of the top arms in the 2020 class, and Duke’s Graeme Stinson might be healthy and reinvigorated by the time the teams square off at the end of April. It’ll be an opportunity for Davidson to play his way into the upper half of the first round. It’ll also be a chance for Clemson to play their way into the hosting mix.

The Tigers have had a bit of an up-and-down season to this point. They sandwiched that sweep of the Tar Heels with series losses to South Carolina and Notre Dame, although they did take two of three from BC. They’re second in the conference at 9-3, 22-6 overall, with as much talent as anyone in the conference. With Seth Beer having moved on to pro ball, Logan Davidson’s emerged as the anchor of the Clemson lineup. So far, he’s proven up to the task of shouldering the load.