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2022 Diamondbacks Reviews, #58: Matt Davidson

The prodigal son came back, eight years later. But the Return of the Matt wasn’t up to much.

Los Angeles Dodgers v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Vote breakdown


  • Rating: 2.04
  • 2022 stats: 5 GS. 1-for-10, 3 BB. 3 SO, 1 HR, 1 RBI, .100/.308/.400 (100 OPS+), -0.1 bWAR
  • Date of birth: March 26, 1991 (31 years old)
  • 2022 salary: Major-league minimum
  • 2023 status: Free agent

2022 in review

On April 23, Matt Davidson played for the Diamondbacks - a mere 8 years, 6 months and 24 days after his previous appearance for the club. It wasn’t even the longest gap between games for Arizona on the 2022 D-backs, losing out by 42 days to Ian Kennedy. However, IPK was perhaps more on the radar during his absence. Davidson had debuted with Arizona in 2013 - it came when he replaced Cody Ross, in the game where Ross fractured his hip running the bases. But I can’t honestly say I had thought much about Matt since he was traded to the White Sox in December 2013 for another failed D-backs closer, Addison Reed. I’d be peeved about that trade had Davidson amounted to much.

For it was initially a tough haul for him in Chicago: he played just one MLB game in three years, fracturing his foot in that White Sox debut - bizarrely, like Ross, the injury occurred while Matt was running the bases. Eventually getting regular starts, he hit 26 HR in 2017, but a .260 OBP kept his value below replacement, though he improved to an OPS+ of 102 the following year. He became a free agent after the 2018 campaign, and spent time with the Rangers, Reds and Dodgers organizations, mostly in the minors, with just 47 major-league PA from 2019-2021. Then in March this year, he signed back with the team which had originally picked him, in the first round (35th overall) of the 2009 draft.

While he didn’t make the Opening Day roster, he forced his way into consideration with a torrid start for the Aces, hitting .386 with eight home-runs in 11 games for a 1.425 OPS. However - and stop me if you’ve heard this before - those video-game numbers did not translate from the PCL to the majors. Though it started well enough, to put it mildly. In his first PA for Arizona in 3,127 days, Davidson went the opposite way off Washington’s Matt Rogers (above). He was a bit lucky, as Nationals Park was one of only ten parks where it would have been a home-run. But you could not have asked for a better return to the D-backs. Unfortunately, it was also the only hit Davidson would get for the 2022 D-backs.

He went 0-for-9 thereafter, and was a victim of a roster crunch. Due to the truncated spring, teams were allowed 28 players through the end of April, but had to cut the number to 26 at that point. Matt and Tyler Gilbert were the unlucky players left without a chair when the music stopped. In Davidson’s case, he was out of minor-league options, so had to be taken off the 40-man roster and exposed to waivers. Davidson went unclaimed, and chose free agency over a minor-league assignment, then signed with the Athletics. He played 8 games there in June, going 4-for-24 with one HR before being DFA’d again. He accepted the minor-league assignment this time, though chose to become a free agent at season’s end.

I like the fact that every hit Davidson had for Arizona was a home-run. He’s the fourth player to achieve that feat, though the first since catcher Bobby Estalella in 2004 (who actually went 2-for-14 with two HR). The others were both in the D-backs’ inaugural season: outfielder Hensley Meulens (1-for-15 with a HR) and closer Gregg Olson (1-for-2 with a HR). The major-league record for HR = hits in a season is three. most recently by pitcher Jorge Sosa in 2006, who went 3-for-20 with three HR for the Braves. I also find myself oddly pleased by the symmetry, which saw Davidson finish the year for Arizona with a .100 batting average and a 100 OPS+. That’s hard to do.

2023 outlook

Even though Davidson’s debut was a full ten seasons ago, he has accumulated less than four years service time: this was his first “arbitration eligible” year. The great bulk of it was in 2017-18, responsible for 241 of his 306 games to date. That said, of the five D-backs picks in the first round of the 2009 draft, Davidson’s career ranks in the middle, ahead of both Mike Belfiore and Bobby Borchering, who combined for one major-league game. He’ll turn 32 before Opening Day, with a career 94 OPS+ and slightly below replacement level bWAR, at -0.7, so is fringe at best. Maybe he’ll get a roster shot as a relief pitcher? For in six games and 6.1 IP, he has a 2.84 ERA and three K’s, including this nice one of Giancarlo Stanton.