5 more bold predictions for the 2024 Pittsburgh Pirates

Keep an eye out for these five things going right for the Pirates in 2024

Mar 3, 2024; North Port, Florida, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Henry Davis (32) celebrates
Mar 3, 2024; North Port, Florida, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Henry Davis (32) celebrates / Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
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3. Henry Davis catches 108+ games

This seems like an unusual number, but there's logic behind this. Davis catching 108 games would mean that he was behind the plate for at least two-thirds of the Pirates' games in 2024. Just a handful of months ago, this would have seemed near impossible. While it still isn't exactly the most likely outcome, there's a pretty clear avenue for this to happen.

The primary component here is Davis' bat. He's got to hit. As was noted last week, Davis is one of the players most pivotal to the Pirates' success in 2024. They need him to hit and stick behind the plate. There's plenty of reason to believe the bat will hold up.

Davis has hit pretty much everywhere he has played. He posted a 1.001 OPS across three seasons at Louisville that earned him the honor of being the top pick in the 2021 draft. He continued that production into his first taste of pro ball. In 122 minor league games, he has a .947 OPS, along with 25 home runs and 20 stolen bases.

He got off to a hot start to his MLB career, as well. At the conclusion of his 27th career MLB game, in which he went 3-for-4 and homered twice off of Shohei Ohtani, he owned a .295/.391/.463 slash. Some time not long after that, he suffered a right thumb injury that he tried to play through. Over his next 24 games, until he was ultimately placed on the injured list, his production plummeted to the tune of a .125/.212/.205 slash line.

He looked really good at the plate this spring, sporting a .310/.400/.667 slash, with four home runs in just 42 at bats, while walking at about a 14 percent clip. It would be pretty astonishing if he were able to replicate any of the legs from that slash line in the 2024 regular season, but if he can carry over his power and on-base abilities, he'll be one of the premier offensive catchers in the league in short order.

Not only has he had a strong spring at the plate, but he's impressed behind it, as well. Pitchers have been singing his praises all spring as an improved game-caller, receiver, and blocker, to go along with an arm that was graded as a 70 as a prospect.

Davis worked extensively with Mike Rabelo (Pirates' third base coach and former MLB catcher) and Jordan Comadena (Pirates' bullpen catcher and former minor league catcher) on his defense throughout the winter. At the conclusion of the spring, GM Ben Cherington told the media, "At some point during the spring, we just stopped asking ourselves, 'Well, can he do this or not?' and we were just watching the games." It sure sounds like his hard work is paying off.

It's also plausible that any extended looks Davis gets behind the plate might be born of necessity. He caught all of two innings in the major leagues last year, mostly in deference to the other top catching prospect, Endy Rodriguez. However, Rodriguez tore his UCL playing winter ball, prompting the Pirates to add Ali Sanchez, who was DFA'd at the end of Spring Training, and Yasmani Grandal, who has been held out of game action for multiple weeks due to plantar fasciitis.

That leaves Jason Delay as the alternative to Davis. Delay is a plus defender who possesses a good rapport with the pitching staff, particularly Mitch Keller, who had a 2.37 ERA with Delay behind the plate last year. Delay can't hit - his .390 batting average last April was inflated by a .417 BABIP, and he was basically Austin Hedges after that - and thus, shouldn't be in the lineup consistently.

If Henry Davis continues to make strides offensively, and if his efforts to improve his defense prove fruitful, he will spend a lot of time behind the plate for the Pirates in 2024, and that's one of the key ingredients for the Bucs taking another step forward this season.