A Conversation With Oakland A’s Prospect Logan Davidson

Logan Davidson struggled to find himself in 2021. Two years after being drafted 29th overall by the Oakland A’s out of Clemson University, the 23-year-old shortstop slashed a paltry .212/.307/.313 with 155 strikeouts in 515 plate appearances with the Double-A Midland RockHounds. Continuity proved elusive. In almost chameleon-like fashion, Davidson went back to the drawing board time and again over the course of the season.

His quest to discover a productive stroke continued in the Arizona Fall League, where he put up numbers far more pleasing to the eye. Playing for the Mesa Solar Sox, Davidson logged a .274/.400/.411 slash line in 90 plate appearances. Promising as that was, punch-outs remained a problem. The switch-hitting infielder went down on strikes 33 times.

In a refreshingly candid interview during the penultimate week of the Arizona Fall League season, Davidson — No. 24 on our newly-released Oakland A’s Top Prospects list — discussed his 2021 struggles.


David Laurila: To start, how do you identify as a hitter?

Logan Davidson: “I’d say I’m gap-to-gap, a line-drive guy who is going to run into some power. I’m working on the strikeouts. Obviously, I’m a pretty big swing-and-miss guy right now. I’m trying to get a solid approach, seeing balls up and hitting pitches that I’m supposed to hit, and taking pitches you’re supposed to take. That’s pretty much it: a gap-to-gap guy who is working on cutting down the strikeouts.”

Laurila: Why have there been so many strikeouts?

Davidson: “For one, it’s a pretty big jump; the pitching is really good. Two, this is my first full year in pro ball, so there’s a lot of learning going on. A lot of it is the day-to-day of a full season, learning how to adjust to that, both mentally and physically. It’s trying to stick to an approach and not changing something just because you had a bad night or two in a row.”

Laurila: There can be a fine line between sticking to an approach and making an adjustment to address an issue. Did you make changes over the course of the season?

Davidson: “Changes were definitely made. Were they the right changes? I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t have long enough with the changes and kind of kept searching and searching. That can be a problem in itself. But I think a lot of it… some of it was swinging at bad pitches, and some of it was not hitting good ones. If you’re fouling off fastballs instead of putting them in play, you’re going to get in two-strike counts and find yourself trying to hit nasty backdoor sliders.

“You need to be on time to put balls into play. There was one point in the season where I was very late with my load, which was causing me to be late to the fastball and just fouling them off. Conversely, I was too early on the off-speed. Pretty much, I was sitting in between to where I couldn’t really hit either one. You have to at least be able to get to a fastball, so I adjusted my timing — I started getting ready earlier, and that helped me get into a groove. Really, a lot of it is just mental confidence and building off of what you’ve got going on. It’s about letting that snowball in a positive direction, and not in a negative direction.”

Laurila: What specifically were you referring to when you said, “Were they the right changes?”

Davidson: “There were a number of things. I probably got too technical, and too mechanical with a lot of things. Instead of just looking for a good pitch to hit, and trusting my swing… there were times I was trying to do something mechanical that I felt in batting practice, or off a machine. I was trying to execute that in a game, and that’s not how you’re going to have success. You can’t think mechanically when you’re in the box. Hitting is about reaction. You pretty much have to go into the game with what you’ve got, and search for good pitches to hit.”

Laurila: It’s been said that you can’t think and hit at the same time. It sounds you were guilty of doing that.

Davidson: “For sure. Whether it was thinking about where my hands were, or getting on top of the ball, or trying to… mechanically, I did what I was trying to do, but I would swing at a bad pitch because I wasn’t focused on the right thing. You can really only be focused on one thing at a time. If you’re focused on getting a good pitch to hit, you can probably handle it, regardless of how your swing feels at the time. If you’re focusing on a certain feel, you’re going to chase something you probably can’t hit anyway. So it’s a matter of clearing your head, having the right approach, and sticking with it.”

Laurila: If I were to look at film of you from different points in the season, would I see actual differences?

Davidson: “I don’t know if you would, but I would. I’d be able to tell you exactly what time period that was during the season. I was trying different things with the load, the elbows, where the hands were, what I was trying to feel. Was I swinging down, kind chopping the ball? Was I trying to go opposite field? Was I sitting off-speed, trying to stay on it? It was a number of different things.”

Laurila: Hearing that, what comes to mind is how players sometimes say they needed to go back to doing what got them drafted in the first place.

Davidson: “I tried that, but this is a game where you have to make adjustments as you go along. I mean, I would say that I’m a better hitter now than when I got drafted. It’s not like I’ve gone backwards. It’s just a matter of getting experience, getting the at-bats and letting that confidence build. It’s about continuing to get better. The swing really isn’t all that different. It’s the pitchers — the pitchers in pro ball — that are a lot different. If you’re not focused on what you need to be focused on, you’re going to get exposed.”

Laurila: Basically, you need to clear your head and just be an athlete in the box.

Davidson: “Yes. When I get out of my own way is when I’m at my best. For sure. I tend to be a perfectionist — I tend to overdo things — and that’s a strength and a weakness at the same time.”

Laurila: When you’re not overthinking, are you basically hunting fastballs?

Davidson: “The easy thing would be to say, ‘hunting fastballs,’ but to me it’s more like a tunnel. You’re trying to see, out of a tunnel, something coming up in the zone. That’s especially true if it’s a guy who mixes well, which is most pitchers. I’m trying to tunnel the top of the zone; that way, if it’s off-speed, it’s still hittable. When you tunnel on the lower half of the zone, and you have to swing like it’s a fastball, the next thing you know it’s a slider at your back foot, or a changeup down and away. When you’re seeing up, you can adjust to those pitches a lot better.”

Laurila: That said, elevated heaters with good ride are hard to hit…

Davidson: “They’re definitely hard to hit. But I’m looking top of the zone, not out of the zone. I want something to tunnel in the top of the zone, because if it starts that way and is a curveball, it’s going to end up at the bottom zone and still be hittable. Conversely, if it comes out middle and he throws a curveball, it’s probably going to be a ball. So there are a number of things you have to look at. What kind of pitches is this guy throwing? What’s his secondary pitch? What’s his main pitch? Is he a high-velocity guy at the top of the zone? If he is, maybe you’ll look down a little more. If he has a plus curveball, you’re not going to look down.”

Laurila: Have you found yourself focusing too much on the pitcher’s strengths, and not enough on your own?

Davidson: “Sometimes, with those guys, you’re telling yourself not to swing at it, and the next thing you know, you’ve just swung at a fastball up because it looked so good. You can end up playing into his strength instead of your strength… and sometimes you can get away with that, too. But the majority of the time, I was searching for my strength. Do you know what I mean? And not that I found it, really the whole year, but I did learn a lot. With a lot of failure comes a lot of learning. There’s a lot to be said about adversity.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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5 months ago

Well he’s been clearly in over his head and bewildered but at least he’s self-aware. A Cliff Pennington outcome would be satisfactory at this point