Braves use top pick on power bat, draft Davidson

It says a thing or two about outfielder Braxton Davidson and the kind of hitter the Braves just drafted out of Asheville, N.C., when their top overall pick revealed late Thursday night where he’d spent that afternoon trying to calm his nerves.

“My dad and I were hitting on the ball field,” Davidson said.

In a draft rich in pitching, and the projectable kind the Braves tend to go for from the high school ranks, they used their No. 32 overall pick to take a power hitting left fielder from T.C. Roberson High School.

The Braves had their eye on another high school pitcher as well, but after right-hander Luis Ortiz was taken by the Rangers two spots ahead of them at No. 30, the Braves were pleased to have Davidson still available at No. 32.

He’s a player Braves scouting director Tony DeMacio said has “easy power.” But he is also known for having both a good approach, and as his Thursday afternoon activities suggest, and a great “make-up,” as scouts say.

“To be able to get a power bat, picking where we were, especially a young one, we were real happy about that,” DeMacio said. “He’s got a great swing. It’s becoming so difficult to find every day guys, and to find a guy that can hit and then be able to hit with power, especially at the high school level, we were just intrigued with that. We were hoping he would get down to us and fortunately he did.”

For Davidson, Thursday evening brought him full circle, to the night nine years ago when he watched his mentor and friend Cameron Maybin, another T.C. Roberson Ram, get drafted 10th overall by the Detroit Tigers.

Davidson was 8 years old and attended Maybin’s draft party at an Asheville area restaurant on June 7, 2005. Thursday night Davidson was the one with more than 200 family and friends gathered at a place called Hickory Tavern for his draft party.

Maybin, now the center fielder for the San Diego Padres, was the one calling Davidson to wish him luck Thursday afternoon and texting him congratulations shortly after the Braves drafted him.

“It’s just surreal,” Davidson said. “I told my dad, his, when I was 7 or 8, ‘I want to be like Cam.’….Cam is like an older brother to me. We live less than a mile away from each other.”

It was approaching midnight Thursday when Maybin tweeted “Congrats to my little bro….Love you kid, big things in store!!” and technically still a school night.

Davidson, 17, won’t graduate from high school until a week from Saturday. Shortly thereafter, he plans to officially sign with the Braves. He already spoke to Braves area scout Billy Best just before he was drafted Thursday night about signing for slot money, which is $1,705,400 for the No. 32 pick.

Davidson had committed to the University of North Carolina as a sophomore in high school, but he said he spent the past three years trying to make himself attractive to professional scouts.

He got their attention last June when he hit three home runs at the Tournament of Stars showcase, including one that reportedly traveled 500 feet. Even since then he’s worked to make himself a better all-around hitter and to get in better shape to play left field. Davidson played mostly first base growing up, before playing some outfield as well in high school and travel ball.

The 6-2 Davidson lost 20 pounds, down to 210 pounds, by cutting out fast food and soda and eating grilled meats, fruits and vegetables.

“I got the label as a power hitter,” Davidson said. “I really wanted to prove people wrong, to show people that I can actually hit, but I have some power. So my dad and I would work almost every day in the offseason. We worked on hitting, trusting my hands, seeing the ball deep. I’m just glad that I became a better hitter.”

He was rewarded by a team he said he grew up watching almost every day with his father when he was younger. He considers himself a fan of Jason Heyward, as well as other left-handed hitters like Barry Bonds – his favorite all-time player - and Joey Votto.

Davidson had even attended a recent Braves game at Turner Field with family, the Braves-Rockies game on May 25, but he concedes his younger brother Caden, 7, was probably even more excited than he was that he was taken by the Braves.

“I’m really blessed to be a Brave,” Davidson said. “I couldn’t be happier with them choosing me.”