2020 Atlanta Braves Season Review: Tucker Davidson

Where he came from:

We have discussed him before. For more great Braves stuff see:

Like many minor league players hoping for a chance to break through, Davidson was hampered by the lack of a minor league portion of the 2020 season. Still, after only 6 starts in AAA in 2019 nobody was expecting him to make a quick impact in the big leagues in 2020 anyway, so his place at the alternate Gwinnett training site was seen as a good thing to help him perfect his craft.

Originally a 19th round draft pick out of a Texas junior college, Tucker has been an overachiever since joining the Atlanta system, putting up good to great strikeout to walk numbers and unbelievable homerun suppression at every stop. What held him back from real prospect status was his pedestrian stuff — a low-90’s fastball and sloppy breaker with a decent change. Lefties like that are sometimes inexplicable 1st round selections — Hi Sean Gilmartin! — but are a dime-a-dozen in the minors and are really only valuable if they can prove themselves at AA or higher. But then Davidson did something amazing: he went outside the organization to Driveline and this happened.

https://www.reddit.com/r/Braves/comments/enfdz0/braves_prospect_tucker_davidson_hits_100_mph/

The 2019 season saw him hold those velocity gains deep into his outings and as a result his strikeouts soared. Now, he also began walking guys for the first time in his life, so there were a few kinks to work on, but the future is bright.

A Scouting Report

Davidson has an ideal pitcher’s build at 6’2” and 215lbs. He throws high three quarters lefty from a position just slightly left-of-center on the pitching rubber. Because he throws slightly across his body, his balance can be off a bit on landing which will keep him from winning any gold gloves, but once set he fields his position well which is a good thing because he is a ground ball machine, usually getting about 50% of his balls in play on the ground.

The fastball gets the ink because he can touch 100, but it plays far better at 94-96. Above 96 he really begins to lose his balance and this negatively affects command and control. It is a 60 on the scouting scale.

The sloppy breaker has morphed into 2 good pitches: a 83-85mph slider and a mid-70’s curve. The slider has good depth and is effective inside to righties. He almost always throws his slider to the glove side of the plate. Gaining control of the other lane for this pitch is likely a priority of the team’s development staff. It is a current 55 pitch. The curve has excellent bite in an 11-5 shape. He mainly used it in 2019 as a chase pitch so we will have to see how it develops from here. It grades out as a 50.

The change — his best offering when drafted — now lags behind the rest of his pitches and will no doubt be the other developmental priority this offseason.

How Did 2020 Go?

Actually, the first inning was OK! He got 2 strikeouts and didn’t look overmatched or intimidated at all. Then the roof caved in. Now, in his defense, he got no help from his defense. Hech booted an easy groundball and Dansby juggled what should have been an inning-ending double play but the final line is pretty suspect: 1.2 innings, 3 hits (1 homer), 4 walks, with 7 runners crossing the plate. He will have better nights!

What About the Future?

Davison will turn 25 during the 2021 season, so he is entering his prime years. He will not be arb eligible until 2025 or so, so he could be a nice source of cheap pitching for the team in the foreseeable future. ZIPS sees him as league average for 2021. Further refinements of his fastball command, his slider and especially his change will determine whether his ceiling is 3rd/4th starter or higher. Given his dedication to training I can see him being better than that but with a serious caveat: most of the pitchers who have made similar velocity jumps in the 21st century have had injury-riddled MLB careers. Let’s hope Tucker is more DeGrom than Syndergaard.

12 thoughts on “2020 Atlanta Braves Season Review: Tucker Davidson”

  1. Excellent work, snowshine.

    And I got JC’d on Wainwright in the last thread:

    A quick history check…. Only 94 pitchers have made as many as 10 starts at age 39. (31 of them are in the Hall of Fame.) Only 61 of them managed ERA+ of over 100. 7 of them were knuckleballers. But Dazzy Vance had quite a year in 1930.

    https://stathead.com/tiny/LY0cw

  2. Condolences to Rob and all other Bond fans. I grew up in the sixties so Sir Sean was my first and biggest movie idol.

    Favorite Bond movie? Mine is “From Russia With Love”, the purest spy story of the bunch.

  3. Sad news (even if I understood him to be a bit of an a-hole IRL.) Connery is the finest Bond, hands down. And Goldfinger is my favorite. (Also loved him in Highlander!)

  4. Ok… so the news out of St. Louis is getting a little juicier and word is Yadi and Wainwright both on the table for Atlanta.

  5. @7 – Both available. Are both/either desired? As mentioned, Wainwright is 39 and Molina not far behind. I’d like to think we are beyond retreads at this date (even with financial constraints.) I think we can do better, their past performance duly noted.

    ETA – Molina could be a fine back up catcher, but he would likely want more money that we’d pay for such (again and especially since we have in house options.)

  6. The Cubs pick up the $16.5 MM option on Rizzo, which at least proves that not every option is going to be declined in anticipation of lower salaries.

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