Pittsburgh Pirates: Making the Case to Draft Henry Davis

Jun 18, 2019; Omaha, NE, USA; Louisville Cardinals catcher Henry Davis (32) heads to the dugout after the first inning against the Auburn Tigers in the 2019 College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 18, 2019; Omaha, NE, USA; Louisville Cardinals catcher Henry Davis (32) heads to the dugout after the first inning against the Auburn Tigers in the 2019 College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports /
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It’s been speculated who the Pittsburgh Pirates will draft first overall for a while now, but should top catching prospect Henry Davis be in consideration?

Who the Pittsburgh Pirates will select with the number one pick of the 2021 draft has long been speculated. There has been no player who has cemented themselves as the consensus top pick. Kumar Rocker, Jack Leiter, Jordan Lawlar, and Marcelo Mayer can all claim that they were once seen as the best player available in the draft.

One player who could potentially be another player to take the title as the best player available is catcher Henry Davis. Davis is the University of Louisville’s backstop. The slugger is considered one of the best prospects in the 2021 draft class.

There’s no question that Davis can hit. Through 428 plate appearances at the college level, Davis has a .337/.435/.565 line, 21 long balls, and a .425 wOBA. Throughout college, Davis has shown the ability to reach base and avoid strikeouts. He’s walked at a strong 12.1% rate to go with an even better 10.7% strikeout rate. All told, he’s walked 8 more times than he’s gone down on strike three.

Davis has immense power. FanGraphs sees his future game power as a 70-grade tool. Meanwhile, he currently sits with a 70-current and future raw power grade. They also give his hit tool a future-50 grade, making it about average. MLB Pipeline states that he’s a player who could be a consistent 20 home run hitter with a solid batting average.

So it seems like a no-brainer, right? A catcher with 70-power potential, a good hit tool, and gets on base sounds like he could be one of the best backstops in baseball. The thing that holds Davis back is his defensive ability. FanGraphs sees Davis as just a 30-grade fielder behind the dish. While he does have a strong arm, with MLB Pipeline seeing it as a 70-grade tool, he struggles with blocking balls and struggles with receiving quality pitches, according to MLB Pipeline.

Eventually, many see him as a corner infielder/outfielder. Davis is a good hitter, but catching is a position where defense matters a lot. Aside from it being the position that touches the ball the most often outside of the pitcher, the pitcher also relies on the catcher to call a good game, prevent balls in the dirt from going to the backstop, frame borderline pitches, and keep base runners at bay. Davis struggles with most of these aspects.

Sure, Davis bat is very intriguing. But Lawlar and Mayer are much more well-rounded. You get a great hit tool, good power, better speed, and above average fielder with a strong arm with Mayer or Lawlar compared to Davis. Many teams pick players with hit-over-power tools when they are drafted as good power is something that can be developed easier than a good hit tool. It’s easier to develop when they have a good hit tool as well.

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If Davis was able to stay behind the plate, then he’d be an automatic pick. A well above average bat with a solid defense behind the dish would be a fantastic use of the first overall pick. However, given Davis’ struggles defensively and the likelihood he’ll eventually have to move to a corner infield or outfield position makes it much more unlikely that the Bucs would pick him number one overall.

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