2009 Draft Day Spotlight: Matt Davidson
Matt Davidson is one of the top high school bats in tomorrow's MLB Draft. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound third baseman is projected to go in the bottom half of the first round or early in the supplemental round.
A righthanded power hitter, Davidson hit .553/.685/1.153 with 18 doubles and 11 home runs during his senior year. He cranked eight homers in his final dozen games, going yard twice in three separate contests down the stretch.
Using a wood bat, Davidson put on a power display at the National Classic in the spring of 2008 and won the home run derby prior to the Aflac All-American Game at Dodger Stadium last summer. He went 1-for-4 with a run-scoring double down the left-field line in his second at-bat during the game.
Matt was born in Redlands, California on March 26, 1991. The Davidson family moved to nearby Yucaipa when he was a toddler. Davidson has wanted to play professional baseball since he was a young kid. He played four years of varsity and led Yucaipa HS (27-3 overall, 13-1 in the Citrus Belt League) to a national ranking this past season, bowing to Huntington Beach HS in the quarterfinals of the CIF, Southern Section Division II playoffs two weeks ago.
Davidson committed to the University of Southern California last year but appears to be leaning toward turning pro if everything goes as planned.
I spoke to Matt on the telephone for half an hour last Wednesday night. He had just returned from Phoenix after working out with the Arizona Diamondbacks the previous day.
Rich: I understand you not only played varsity baseball all four years at Yucaipa High School but you were the MVP of the league your freshman year.
Matt: Yes. I was mostly a pitcher my freshman and sophomore seasons, then I pretty much quit throwing my junior year and moved to third base to concentrate more on my hitting and fielding.
Rich: How did you do as a pitcher?
Matt: I was 10-1 with a 0.80 ERA in my freshman year. I was 9-2 with like a point 8 ERA as a sophomore. I think I was 4-2 as a junior and 5-0 this year as a relief pitcher.
Rich: Wow. You were quite the pitcher.
Matt: Thanks. I always hit when I pitched. As a freshman, I pitched and DH'd. In my sophomore year, I pitched and played first base.
Rich: What would you say to the cynics who question your ability to stick at third base longer term.
Matt: This is just my second year at third base. I've had absolutely no coaching there. I will be able to work with an infield coach in college or in the pros. I've only been able to take about 20 grounders a day at practice. I'm really raw right now. I'll be able to spend more time on my fielding in the future.
Rich: You signed a letter of intent to play baseball at USC, my alma mater.
Matt: Oh, that's good to know. My hitting coach, Danny Davidsmeier, was an All-American at USC in 1981.
Rich: I remember him.
Matt: I've been taking personal, private lessons from him since I was 10. He was drafted by Milwaukee in the third round. He didn't play in the majors but made it to Triple-A and also played overseas.
Rich: Can either one of us convince you to become a Trojan or are you set on turning pro?
Matt: I'm totally fine with both. Either one would be a great opportunity.
Rich: Do you have a preference?
Matt: I want to go out and play. My dream is to play pro baseball. But you have to make a smart decision. I just hope everything works out well so I can go out and play.
Rich: You sound like you're anxious to start your professional baseball career.
Matt: Yeah, definitely. I'm not looking for a ridiculous amount of money. I just want a fair amount for where I'm drafted. The big money will be there later.
Rich: That's what I like to hear, Matt.
Matt: Being drafted in the first round is a special thing. Not many people get to do that.
Rich: Who is your adviser?
Matt: Ryan Hamill of CAA.
Rich: How did you go about selecting an adviser and what made you choose Ryan?
Matt: You need to talk to your agent a lot. He works for us. He's young and relates well. It just felt comfortable. Everything clicked. I hope to work with him for a long time.
Rich: Coach Stout told me that you worked out with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday. How did that go?
Matt: It went really well. They have a beautiful stadium. I took BP and infield, and then I played in a simulated game with high school and college players.
Rich: Did the team interview you?
Matt: Not really. But the area scouts and I know each other well.
Rich: Arizona has the 16th and 17th picks plus three more in the sandwich round. Any idea where the D-Backs might draft you, if at all?
Matt: The Diamondbacks definitely have an interest but they can't tell you where they might take you. We'll be talking. We'll just have to see how it goes.
Rich: Have you worked out for any other teams?
Matt: San Francisco and St. Louis. I had a couple of professional team workouts as a group on Saturday and Sunday.
Rich: Do you have any others scheduled between now and the draft?
Matt: I'm going to Milwaukee on Friday.
Rich: From a scout's point of view, how would you rank your five tools (hitting for average, power, fielding, arm strength, and speed) in order from best to worst?
Matt: Hitting for power would be my best. Hitting for average second. My arm third. Then fielding and speed. But I want to make them all even.
Rich: Plate discipline and pitch recognition skills play important roles when it comes to hitting. How would you rate this area of your game?
Matt: I really improved on that this year from last year. Dr. Harrison and his son Ryan of Slow the Game Down helped me out a lot. They work with a lot of major leaguers. Dr. Harrison is an optometrist who works on eye training. I've learned to pick up pitches well and now see the spin of the ball better. I'm laying off pitches and waiting to get my pitch.
Rich: I noticed that you had 27 walks and only struck out seven times this year.
Matt: Yeah, and I was also hit by a pitch like 14 times.
Rich: Yikes. Were they throwing at you intentionally?
Matt: Sometimes. But it might also be because I get on the plate a little bit. That probably helps.
Rich: Do you tend to guess type of pitch and/or location when even or ahead in the count?
Matt: Umm... Sometimes I do. But Danny has taught me to be more of a react hitter. I don't really like to sit on pitches. I just like to react. I don't do as well when I get away from that.
Rich: Do you change your approach when behind in the count?
Matt: Not necessarily. I like to have a game plan of what I'm going to do. With two strikes, I want to put the ball in play. Hit it hard somewhere. I don't like to change my swing at all. Just keep it the same.
Rich: What is the biggest difference between hitting with a wood bat vs. an aluminum bat?
Matt: Bat speed. You need to have strong hands and arms. The sweet spot is smaller. You can't hit the ball off the handle like with an aluminum bat.
Rich: Do you like using wood bats?
Matt: I love hitting with wood bats more than aluminum.
Rich: You won the home run derby at the Aflac All-American Classic last summer using a wood bat.
Matt: I did. I hit six at USC and three or four at Dodger Stadium before the game.
Rich: Do you prefer facing lefthanders more than righthanders?
Matt: No, not at all. It doesn't matter to me. The ball still is coming out pretty much the same.
Rich: Who's the most difficult pitcher you've faced thus far?
Matt: I would say John Meyer, a righthander from Cathedral High School in San Diego. He is going to Clemson.
Rich: Have you patterned your game after another player?
Matt: Definitely. Alex Rodriguez, David Wright, and Cal Ripken Jr. I like to pick a little from each one. But you have to be your own player.
Rich: Who is your favorite player?
Matt: Cal Ripken or David Wright.
Rich: What is your attraction to them?
Matt: They play the game the right way. They play hard. They play every night. They present a good image, always working, showing how it's done. They're good role models.
Rich: Speaking of which, you were a member of Best Buddies, a non-profit organization founded in 1989 that is dedicated to enhancing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.
Matt: I was heavily into it last year but haven't been as involved this year with all that has been going on. I've always had a soft spot for the less fortunate.
Rich: You have also given hitting and pitching lessons throughout your community.
Matt: I continue to do that. I enjoy helping kids. There were people who helped me when I was a kid. I like giving back.
Rich: It sounds like you've got your act together, Matt. Where will you be on draft night?
Matt: I'll be at home. It's the night before grad night. The team baseball banquet is that evening.
Rich: Good luck on Tuesday. I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me tonight.
Matt: I enjoyed it. Thank you very much.
Rich: Thank you, Matt. I look forward to staying in touch with you.
Rich: OK. Take care.
Thanks to Jeff Stout for coordinating the interview and to Aflac All-American and Max Preps for the photos.