Braves prospects: It’s time to view Tucker Davidson as elite

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 10: The baseball lies on the grass as the Los Angeles Angels face the Cleveland Indians at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 10, 2016 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 10: The baseball lies on the grass as the Los Angeles Angels face the Cleveland Indians at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 10, 2016 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /
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Atlanta Braves Cristian Pache
Cristian Pache #27 (C) of the Atlanta Braves. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

One of Double-A’s stars in 2019, Davidson was yet another Atlanta Braves’prospect that excelled. Although, he appears to have an even better performance planned for 2020.

This past weekend I kicked off a more loosely constructed series with which I hope is a rather straightforward objective — to go into more depth regarding our most recent Atlanta Bravestop-30 prospect rankings, while at the same time, hopefully providing more clarity as to why certain players are ranked where.

Our rankings list does in fact provide its own bit of details, though there’s only so much you can include when delivering a ranking of 30 players. Short and simple was the goal then, but fine points and interesting specifics will be the target going forward.

I didn’t even bother naming this series of articles, so just simply look for Braves prospects in the title as an indicator and know that the prospect(s) mentioned there is a player-profile within this series.

To get a better idea, you can always revert back to the first post of this sequence or by simply clicking the Prospects tab from the upper-left dropdown (they will all be there in order):

To keep things consistent, I will include all prior posts — as well as a quick intro like this one — in every new edition, you know… like a proper series.

But let’s move on to this talented lefty who seems to be quite popular these days…

There was perhaps a small list of prospects that the general dedicated Braves’ fan most likely felt would breakout in 2019, and for me, Tucker Davidson was NOT one of them.

It wasn’t that I necessarily felt less high on him than other Braves’ prospects, but it was more of a case where the organization’s other talent just seemed to simply shine more bright. Davidson somehow fell through the cracks.

In Davidson’s first couple of years in the Braves’ system — after being taken in the 19th round of the 2016 draft — he was used primarily as a reliever, as his low-90s fastball and still premature secondaries weren’t that of a top-tier starting pitcher.

Coming out of the draft, Davidson ranked as the 500th best overall pitcher and 59th best lefty in the nation, and just barely within the top-70 in the state of Texas, according to Perfect Game.

It’s rather apparent that the industry wasn’t exactly overjoyed with Davidson as a 20-year-old beginning his first season as a pro.

Although, after a 2016 season in rookie ball that featured a 1.52 ERA with 9.7 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9, followed by a 2017 in Single-A Rome that was essentially just as impressive (2.60 ERA, 8.8 K/9, 2.6 BB/9), his name began to become a bit more popular.

In the offseason leading up to the 2018 campaign, FanGraphs pegged Davidson as the Braves’ No. 18 prospect and a 45 FV (Future Value) — a solid endorsement for sure, especially considering the class included guys like Ronald Acuna Jr. (No. 1), a healthy Luiz Gohara (No. 3), and a then-50 FV Touki Toussaint (No. 8).

Overall, that 2018 group was extraordinary, as it featured a whopping 10(!) top-100 prospects and 11 50 FV+ grades. For Tuck, I’d say he was just happy to be included in the party.

But you could say Davidson’s 2018 wasn’t quite ideal, as the Braves challenged him a bit and promoted him to High-A Florida for the start of the season. After making 12 starts in the season prior, the Braves were now interested in Tucker Davidson The Starting Pitcher.

His first full year as a starter with the Fire Frogs wasn’t eye-opening, as his recently newfound fastball velocity took a bit of a hit.

In 24 starts (118.1 IP), Davidson struck out 99 and walked 58, good for a respectable 7.5 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9. His 4.18 ERA wasn’t terrific, either, though his home run prevention was strong, surrendering just 5 home runs all year (0.4 HR/9).

At 22-years-old — a year below the average age in High-A — Davidson’s 2018 was neither great nor poor, but it was certainly the last time any thought would be required to make such a distinction regarding his end-of-season performance.