Today we’re keeping the series rolling, moving on to a prospect everyone in Braves Country is super excited about, left-handed pitcher Tucker Davidson.
Check out the site’s updated Top 30 list as well as my post on the organization’s potential under-the-radar prospects for 2021. Also catch up on our profile series if you’ve missed the latest write-ups.
- 2021 Braves Top 30 Prospect Rankings
- Potential risers and under-the-radar prospects for 2021
- Braves 2021 Prospect Profile: No. 9 Michael Harris
- Braves 2021 Prospect Profile: No. 26 Tyler Owens
- Braves 2021 Prospect Profile: No. 12 Bryce Ball
#8. Tucker Davidson, LHP
- 6’2″, 215 lbs.
- 19th RD / 2016 MLB Draft
Without a minor league season last year to build off his incredible 2019, Davidson has to be anxious to pitch a full season after settling for just one start in 2020 (his MLB debut versus the Red Sox, which featured just 1.2 innings). The rough outing against Boston isn’t cause for any concern of course, but Davidson would’ve loved to enter the current offseason like he did a year ago, when he ranked 5th on our 2020 Braves prospect list.
It’s essentially a toss up between Davidson and fellow lefty Kyle Muller, as depending on their performance to start the season either one could earn the title of Braves Best Left-handed Prospect Pitcher. For now we have Tuck just behind Muller, but just know that both rankings are subject to change as the 2021 campaign progresses.
What has Davidson done so far?
Davidson was part of Atlanta’s loaded 2016 class, selected in the 19th round in a draft that featured the organization’s current top pitching prospect, righty Ian Anderson. Initially, the Braves saw more reliever than starter, in regards to Davidson, as the 20-year-old began his pro career in the Gulf Coast League by making 10 relief appearances and just one start. Regardless, the results were strong. Davidson struck out 32 batters in 29.2 innings (9.7 K/9) during his rookie ball stint in 2016 (good for a 1.52 ERA), earning a promotion to Single-A Rome the next season.
Full-season ball in 2017 was where Davidson began his development as a starter. The lefty spent the entire ’17 season in Rome, and with 12 starts and 19 relief appearances under his belt there, to go along with a 2.60 ERA for the year, Davidson started gaining attention as a potential top-tier prospect. However, once in High-A with the Florida Fire Frogs in 2018, a down-year kept him from reaching the upper-minors just yet, as Davidson pitched to a 4.18 ERA in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, while also walking 4.4 batters per nine across 24 starts.
With 100+ innings in High-A, and entering his age-23 season, Atlanta needed to challenge Davidson in 2019, hence his promotion to Double-A Mississippi before Opening Day.
From April to August that season, Tuck was one of the best starting pitchers in Double-A’s Southern League as he and Anderson led the M-Braves rotation, with the former pacing the class in ERA and the latter in strikeouts. At the time of his promotion to Triple-A Gwinnett, Davidson had allowed just a .224 AVG from opposing batters, including a 2.03 ERA to go with 122 strikeouts in 110.2 innings (9.9 K/9) while in Mississippi. It was time to see if he could do the same against some of the minors’ best hitters.
With so little time left in the ’19 season, Davidson’s stretch in Gwinnett only lasted four starts, however, his pitching bested even Anderson during that small sample of innings. In those four outings for the Stripers (19 IP), Davidson wound up putting together a 2.86 ERA, finishing the campaign with an overall ERA of 2.15 between the two levels while tallying 129.2 innings for the season. Tuck entered that offseason with expectations that he’d crack the big league roster at some point in 2020, which he did in the aforementioned start against Boston.
Expectations for Davidson this season?
Even though one outing is too small of a sample for any major takeaways, there’s certainly a bit of urgency for Davidson to get the 2021 season started. With the Braves reinforcing the big league rotation this past November by signing veterans Drew Smyly and Charlie Morton, Davidson’s services will likely be needed in Gwinnett to begin the year, with a promotion to The Show being based on his performance.
With him turning 25 this season, there’s still the chance that Davidson ends up a reliever long term, and if Atlanta’s starting staff remains relatively healthy in ’21 we very well could see Tuck appear out of the major league bullpen. A lot will depend on if he can somewhat match his performance from two years ago and whether or not his third pitch (changeup), along with his command, can improve. Either way, the excitement regarding Davidson should still be extremely high.