Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 3/16/12
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Much has been made of the pitching prospects in the Diamondbacks system, some seemingly one fallen domino from the majors. But the arms are not alone. Infielders Matt Davidson and Chris Owings and outfielders A.J. Pollock and Adam Eaton are among the position players who appear to be building blocks for the future. All but Eaton were part of the D-backs conspicuous 2009 draft haul that included Paul Goldschmidt and prospects Charles Brewer, Marc Krauss, Bobby Borchering and Ryan Wheeler. Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin also were taken that year by the Angels. A quick riser, Eaton was a 19th-round choice in 2010. Davidson is ranked the No. 97 prospect by industry bible Baseball America entering the season, joining Trevor Bauer (No. 9) and Skaggs (No. 13) on that list. "They have some tools that can help us win," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. Gibson was speaking specifically of Pollock and Eaton, but he also has had good words for Davidson and Owings this spring. Each of that group appears at least a year away, but as general manager Kevin Towers showed last season, production plus opportunity can equal a quick promotion. Eaton walked and tripled while starting in right field in the D-backs 4-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Friday. Both he and Pollock have received as many at-bats as most of the regulars this spring as the D-backs take a long early look at both, the better to evaluate the position group as teams inquire about outfielder Gerardo Parra. Both appear capable of playing all three outfield positions, a plus. Pollock played center field during a record-setting season at Mobile last year, while Eaton played right after being promoted from Class A Visalia in the second half. Pollock, the 17th player taken in the 2009 draft, had a Mobile-record 41 doubles while leading the Southern League with 161 hits last season. Among minor leaguers, Baseball America ranked Pollock as the D-backs best defensive outfielder and best hitter for average. His lost 2010 season because of a fractured elbow in spring training seems a distant memory. "People talk about the home runs, but that is something I dont try to force. I just try to drive the ball. Ill take a double every time. Maybe I can steal a base and get to third and get an RBI for someone," said Pollock, 24, who had 36 stolen bases last year. Of his first major league camp, Pollock said: "You just try get in the flow of things. At the same time, you are also trying to show you can play well." Like Pollock, Eaton has relished the opportunity to learn from the D-backs veterans and coaching staff in his first major league spring training. "With the experience in this clubhouse and the coaching staff, if you dont pick something up every day, there is something wrong," Eaton said. "Everyone has that dream when you are a little kid. I feel you only have one go-round at this, so you have to put everything into it." Eaton, 23, hit a combined .318 with 145 hits and 72 walks last season. His .434 on-base percentage was the fourth-highest in the minor leagues (Goldschmidt was third at .435). He also had 34 stolen bases. "Id like to see him make good contact and stay on top of the ball, a line-drive-type hitter," Gibson said. "You can see what he does when he gets on the bases. Hes kind of electric. He runs very aggressively. He runs good routes. "For him to help this team, one of the things weve never had is a true leadoff hitter. Hes a guy, maybe, if he worked on it a little, could work his way into something like that in the future." Davidson, the 35th player taken in the 2009 draft, has shown good pop in his first two full seasons in the minor leagues and appears to be the heir apparent at third base. He hit .277 with 39 doubles, 20 home runs and 106 RBIs at Class A Visalia last season after putting up 36 doubles, 18 homers and 90 RBIs in a 2010 season spent mostly at Class A South Bend. "He has good power. His bat plays," D-backs third base coach Matt Williams said. "The thing that will get him to the big leagues and keep him there is his ability to play defense." Williams, a four-time Gold Glove winner at third base, has helped Davidson with the nuances of the position this spring, and he has seen a willing pupil. A big man at 6-foot-2, 224 pounds, Davidson does agility drills every morning with strength and conditioning coach Nate Shaw before beginning his daily routine. "The big focus right now is defense," said Davidson, who was drafted out of Yucaipa (Calif.) High at age 18 and will turn 21 on March 26. Davidson, who made a nice bare-handed play on a slow roller down the line early in spring, is working on subtle things such as footwork and positioning and when to shade a hitter depending on the count and the pitching pattern. "Hes gotten to where hes gotten by on raw, natural talent. Now its up to us to help refine that to make him a big leaguer," said Williams, adding that Davidsons dedication to his early agility drills "shows me that he has desire to be a big league ballplayer. You cant ask for any more from anybody." Davidson is likely to open the season at Class AA Mobile, with third base all to himself after the organizations decision to move Borchering to left field in the instructional league. Davidson and Borchering had shared third base and DH while spending most of the last two minor league seasons together. As for being featured in Baseball Americas preseason top 100? It's not something to dwell on. "Its humbling and you pay attention to it," Davidson said. "Everybody does. But you want to take it for what it is and focus on your goals for the year and keep on working hard and keep it that way." Follow Jack Magruder on Twitter
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