Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt got off to a red-hot start with Mobile last season. Now Matt Davidson
, considered the Diamondbacks' third baseman of the future, is doing the same with the BayBears.
"It's definitely my best start," said Davidson, ranked by MLB.com as the Arizona's No. 5 prospect. "I worked really hard over the winter, and it has been paying off."
The 21-year-old California native was 16-for-33 during a season-opening nine-game hitting streak and hasn't cooled off much. Davidson ranked at or near the top of the Southern League in batting average (.379), on-base percentage (.481), slugging (.621) and OPS (1.002) through Sunday while contributing seven doubles, three homers and 11 RBIs.
A supplemental first-round pick by Arizona in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, Davidson hasn't posted the prodigious power numbers of Goldschmidt a year ago, but he is projected as a middle-of-the-order hitter once he is established in the Major Leagues.
In fact, the real question with Davidson has been about his defense. But the Diamondbacks are now confident that he can get the job done at third base as well as in the batter's box.
Arizona moved Bobby Borchering, its first-round pick ahead of Davidson in 2009, to the outfield after having them share third base last season at Visalia in the Class A Advanced California League.
"I feel a lot more comfortable at third base now," said Davidson, who played first base part of the time a year ago. "It was hard moving back and forth."
Davidson was a standout pitcher in high school at Yucaipa, Calif., before deciding to concentrate on hitting.
"I had always been a pitcher, but I wanted to play every day," Davidson said. "I do miss it, though. I still fool around with the pitchers."
The BayBears are loaded with pitching prospects, led by 2011 No. 3 overall pick Trevor Bauer. Davidson can observe them without having to face them.
"That's the best part," he said. "We have a great pitching staff."
Davidson, who won the Home Run Derby at the 2008 Aflac All-American Game, was the 35th overall pick in the 2009 Draft and received a bonus of $900,000. He struggled a bit in the Northwest League after signing, but was an All-Star in the Midwest League the following year and drove in 106 runs with 60 extra-base hits for Visalia in 2011.
As a reward, Davidson was promoted to Mobile for the Southern League Championship Series and homered against Tennessee in the clinching game as the BayBears won the title.
"That was exciting," he said. "It was great to win a championship."
The experience also prepared Davidson for his first full test in Double-A this year.
"I think the experience helped me," said Davidson, who like Goldschmidt a year ago is showing good patience with 12 walks to 13 strikeouts. "I knew more what to expect."
It is Mobile's pitching staff that drew most of the attention going into this season. But the BayBears also have a hot-hitting slugger in the middle of the lineup -- just like last year.
Gregorius steps up: Didi Gregorius made sure the Pensacola offense didn't suffer too much after Mike Costanzo, the Southern League's RBI leader at the time, was promoted to Triple-A Louisville. The shortstop, rated the Reds' No. 7 prospect, was 20-for-37 during a nine-game game hitting streak through Sunday that raised his average to a league-best .391.
Hot hitters sidelined: Mobile second baseman David Nick and Chattanooga outfielder Kyle Russell -- two of the Southern League's top early-season hitters -- had to go on the disabled list. Nick, who is batting .372, suffered a concussion in a collision during a game at Montgomery. Russell, hitting .325, landed on the DL for the first time in his career because of an oblique strain.
Lee off to slow start: Shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, who is ranked as the Rays' No. 2 prospect, struggled at the plate after being promoted to Montgomery late last season and is off to a slow start this year. Lee, No. 45 among MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects, was hitting .167 through 18 games after batting .190 in 24 games with the Biscuits last season.
Gennett goes deep: Huntsville second baseman Scooter Gennett had a two-homer game and won another with a walk-off blast. The Brewers' No. 6 prospect, batting .346 through Sunday, also put together an 11-game hitting streak.