Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Greensboro Will Have to Juggle Catchers


The Pittsburgh Pirates High-A affiliate will start the year juggling the playing time of three of the organization’s top catching prospects

The Pittsburgh Pirates made a strength out of what was originally a massive weakness. In the 2020-2021 offseason, the Pirates had almost zero notable catching prospects. Fast forward to today, and you’re looking at a system with about a half dozen noteworthy backstop prospects. Three of their best are currently stationed at High-A Greensboro.

The best among this trio is Henry Davis. The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Davis with the first overall selection in last year’s draft. Considered the best power-hitting prospect in last year’s draft, Davis was coming off a college career where he hit .337/.435/.565 with 21 home runs and a .439 wOBA. He also had more walks than strikeouts, drawing ball four 52 times and going down on strike three just 46 times.

Davis has massive power potential. He earned 70-grades for both his game and raw power by FanGraphs and 60-grade per MLB Pipeline. Oneil Cruz is one of the few prospects in the game who can rival his power ability. He also has a cannon of an arm, which helps gun down would-be base stealers. However, his overall defensive ability is questionable at best. He has visible problems when it comes to framing and blocking.

The next best catching prospect in the system is Endy Rodriguez. The switch-hitter was one of the four players heading the Pirate way in the Joe Musgrove trade. The backstop had a phenomenal season at Low-A Bradenton, where he hit .297/.380/.512 with a .410 wOBA and 140 wRC+.

Rodriguez is known for his remarkable eye at the plate and plate discipline. He only struck out in 17.7% of his plate appearances while drawing a walk 11.5% of the time. He’s yet to walk less than 10% of the time or strike out more than 20% of the time in a season.

Rodriguez’s ability to make frequent contact and reach base earned him a 70-grade for his hit tool per FanGraphs. He’s also a good defender behind the dish with an arm capable of sticking behind the plate. Rodriguez also brings a fair amount of athleticism you usually don’t see in catchers. The one knock on Rodriguez is his power. But he sprays line drives all over the field, so even if he doesn’t continue being a .200+ ISO hitter, he still should be productive, given he isn’t a massive pull hitter and hits liners more than a quarter of the time.

Last but not least is Abrahan Gutierrez. Gutierrez is coming off a great season with the Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies, where he hit .290/.428/.441 with a .416 wOBA and 144 wRC+ through 306 plate appearances. He only had a .151 ISO but walked at a 17.7% rate and struck out just 14.4% of the time.

The downside with Gutierrez is he’s a ground ball hitter with below-average power. He had a 51.6% ground ball rate, which he’ll definitely need to improve if he wants to keep hitting well. He’s a similar hitter to Rodriguez, but unlike Rodriguez, who had a sub-30% ground ball rate and 26.4% LD%, Gutierrez only had a 20.3% line drive rate. Though he is a solid defender and could still put up a respectable OBP given his ability to draw walks and avoid strikeouts.

The Pittsburgh Pirates will have to juggle the playing time of this trio, at least to start the season. On the plus side, Rodriguez does come with some versatility. That plus athleticism as a catcher plays well at first base and left field, two positions he has a handful of innings logged at. He was stationed in left field for his first game of the season. Interestingly, he started at second base last night. Meanwhile, Gutierrez got his first innings as a professional at first base with Davis behind the dish.

They’ll likely be rotated between catcher, first base, left field, and designated hitter. Another thing that could help free up playing time this season is a potential promotion to Double-A. Not only is Davis one of the most talented players in the system, but he’s also in his age-22 campaign. By the end of the season, he’ll be 23-years-old. If he’s both healthy and playing well, we might see him at Altoona sometime during the summer. That would add more talent to an already stacked Double-A roster.

dark. Next. Home Runs, Mike Burrows Shoves & More

It’s nice to see what was originally a weakness turn into a massive strength. This trio might be the best catching prospects the Pirates have to offer, but they also have other notables between Carter Bins, Wyatt Hendrie, Geovanny Planchart, Eli Wilson, and Blake Sabol. By the end of the year, the Pirates could have arguably their second-best prospect in the upper minor leagues.