Tucker Davidson made a surprise start for the Atlanta Braves in the 2021 World Series, but was unable to carve out a spot in the team’s rotation and was ultimately traded to the Los Angeles Angels. He pitched pretty well in Triple-A, but really hasn’t been able to do anything at the major league level as of yet.
The Braves drafted Davidson in the 19th round of the 2016 MLB Draft out of Midland College in Texas. He made his Major League debut on the final day of the regular season in 2020. He had a four-start stint in the rotation in 2021 before a forearm strain sidelined him for the remainder of the regular season. He was pressed into duty during the World Series after Charlie Morton suffered a broken leg in Game 1.
At the Trade Deadline, Atlanta traded Davidson along with reliever Jesse Chavez to the Angels at the trade deadline in exchange for reliever Raisel Iglesias.
Davidson came to camp in 2022 hoping to win a spot in the team’s rotation. His four-start stint in 2021 was decent, so there was at least some reason to think he could be a useful swingman, but he wasn’t expected to slide right in to the rotation and throw up strong numbers from the get-go.
Davidson was part of the competition for one of the final spots in the Braves rotation during the spring. He earned a spot on the Opening Day roster, but didn’t last long as he was optioned back to Gwinnett on April 12 after just one mop-up appearance in relief.
Davidson joined the rotation at Gwinnett and was recalled to the majors on May 16 when Tyler Matzek was placed on the Injured List due to a shoulder injury. He rejoined the rotation and fired five scoreless innings against the Brewers in his first start on May 17. He then stuck in the rotation for two more turns, but struggled, allowing six runs in 7 2/3 innings combined. He was optioned back to Gwinnett on May 29 for a fresh arm in Jesus Cruz. None of his four Braves outings were really noteworthy; in all four, he either had the same number of walks as strikeouts, or actually walked more than he punched out. He had a 156/115/152 (ERA-/FIP-/xFIP-) across the four appearances.
That would be Davidson’s final appearance in an Atlanta uniform as he was traded to the Angels for Iglesias at the Trade Deadline. The trade brought forth an opportunity for Davidson in the Angels’ rotation, but he largely struggled, posting a 6.87 ERA and a 6.30 FIP in 36 2/3 innings.
What went right? What went wrong?
Davidson showed flashes during his tenure with the Braves, but was unable to make headway towards earning any meaningful role. He looked like he was on the cusp of serving a useful role in 2021 before the forearm injury, but things just never came together in 2022. The trade was actually a good thing for him in that it gave him an opportunity, but he struggled to show that he belonged. He finished his season at 169/144/147, which is pretty much unplayable, across 52 innings of work. He had more walks than strikeouts on the year.
At least on paper, Davidson showed some decent things this year, like last year. He has a decent-enough hard slider that he really started commanding well, towards the bottom edge of the zone, this year. The “rise” on his four-seamer is okay. His curve is basically just a slower slider but works about as well, though he can’t snap it to the same edge of the zone like he does his slider.
Davidson’s fastball command, though, is absolutely horrendous, and it’s horrendous in a way where he basically everything he throws ends up down the middle, eminently hittable. This is a problem he’s never been able to solve at the major league level, and while he at least de-emphasized the fastball this year, his slider isn’t good enough to constitute his entire arsenal. He’s got some work to do, in other words, but it looks like that work is going to come with a team other than the Braves in the near-term.
Still, that start against the Brewers was pretty cool. It was only a 3/3 K/BB ratio, and he didn’t exactly keep the ball entirely on the ground or anything, but five scoreless frames will make someone feel good, even if it comes with underwhelming peripherals.
On the not-cool side was him getting blasted by the Phillies six days later. He had just a 2/4 K/BB ratio, and the big blow was this Rhys Hoskins double on one of those do-nothing fastballs that he threw in a full count:
He was chased after allowing an RBI triple after a walk the next inning.
Davidson will turn 27 in March and he won’t be arbitration eligible until after the 2024 season. He will have a full offseason and will go to camp in hopes of competing for a spot in the Angels rotation. That said, it’s hard to see him as an above-replacement arm at this point until he gets the fastball thing figured out or adds a completely different pitch.