A look at the changes Henry Davis has made at Triple-A

Since the Pittsburgh Pirates demoted Henry Davis back to Triple-A after his rough start in the Majors, the former first overall pick has made some big changes to his game.
Apr 26, 2024; San Francisco, California, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Henry Davis (32) during the seventh inning against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 26, 2024; San Francisco, California, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Henry Davis (32) during the seventh inning against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports / Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates took Henry Davis first overall in the 2021 draft. Although he did exceptionally well throughout the minor leagues, Davis struggled in the big leagues, especially this year. Davis was expected to play a significant role but turned in a horrific .162/.280/.206 triple-slash, .235 wOBA, and 49 wRC+ in 83 plate appearances. Davis struck out well over a third of the time with a 34.9% K rate, with the only silver linings being his 13.3% walk rate and 20.7% chase rate.

Davis' struggle led to him getting sent to Triple-A after the Pirates claimed Joey Bart and activated Yasmani Grandal from the injured list. Since getting demoted, Davis has been scorching hot. In 81 plate appearances, he is hitting .297/.444/.672 with a .476 wOBA, and 182 wRC+. Davis already has 29 more total bases at Indy in about the same amount of playing time he had in the bigs so far this year. He's only striking out 22.2% of the time and still has a respectable 11.1% walk rate.

Of course, this is a small sample size, but there are some evident changes that Davis has made to his game. Davis has fully leaned into the pulled flyball approach. He's always been a heavy pull hitter, but now his launch angle at Triple-A is up to 24 degrees, and his flyball rate is up to 47.8% in the small sample size. His flyball rate from 2021-2023 was just 40.1%. Going for pulled flyballs is the way to go. The league average batting average, slugging percentage, and wOBA on these sorts of batted balls in the majors are .400, 1.370, and .727, respectively. Currently, 20 batters have a flyball and pulled batted ball rate of at least 45% each. Fifteen have a wRC+ of 100 or greater.

Another thing he's done is change his swing up. He's started to keep the bat closer to his shoulder with much less wiggle in his load-up. The difference is night and day when you look at video from when he was in the Majors compared to when he was sent back to Triple-A. The first video below is from April in the bigs:

That's just one swing, but any video from this year or late last season in the Major Leagues for Davis will show the same thing. He keeps the bat up and has a lot more movement with his bat when he loads up to swing. Maybe a re-simplifying his swing is all he needs.

These two videos are from the last two weeks when Henry went yard:

So, how do we know this isn't just a small sample size fluke? Well, we don't know for sure. The future isn't set in stone. But his swing is more like what it was prior to getting to the big leagues. The first video below is from last June. The second video, meanwhile, is from 2022.

Even if you go back to his days at Louisville, his swing there is much more like what he's doing at Triple-A now than what he was doing with the major league club earlier this year.

That's a lot of videos, so here's what you should know. Davis moves his bat a lot more in the first video from when he was in the majors last year. The bat is far off his shoulder and when he lifts his front leg, he also gives the bat a quick wiggle before getting ready to swing. But throughout the minor leagues and in college, there's a lot less movement. He keeps the bat still as well as close to his shoulder. There's not a big bat wiggle when he lifts his front leg and loads up to hit the ball.

This swing has really worked for Davis, at least throughout the minor leagues. He owns a career .287/.419/.550 line, .428 wOBA, and 160 wRC+ in 617 plate appearances since 2021. Davis has 31 home runs and a .263 isolated slugging percentage with a solid 20.6% strikeout rate and 12.8% walk rate. So why didn't Davis continue this sort of swing and approach in the majors? Well, all I can say is that it wouldn't be the first time the hitting instruction at the big league level overthought it and tried to fix something that wasn't broken.

Hopefully, these changes can carry over to the big leagues for Davis and turn him into closer to what the Pirates expected when they took him first overall. It's still way too early to give up on Davis. He clearly has the talent and potential to turn it around. Davis is going for a more meta approach and has simplified his swing, two things that could help him very much in the coming future.