While catcher is currently a huge question mark for the Pittsburgh Pirates, it could quickly become a strength for the team
As of this writing it remains to be seen who will start at catcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Opening Day. Entering the offseason catcher was a major need for the 2023 edition of the Pittsburgh Baseball Club. Thus far, that need has yet to be met.
Earlier this week the Pittsburgh Pirates re-signed Tyler Heineman to a minor league contract. However, Heineman, as fans saw last season, is not an every day catcher at the MLB level. Due to his offense, Heineman's ceiling in the majors is that of a strong backup catcher.
The only catcher currently on the Pirate 40-man roster is Endy Rodriguez. Rodriguez is coming off a tremendous 2022 season, a 2022 season that saw him become one of the top catching prospects in all of baseball.
Even though Rodriguez is the only catcher currently on the Pirate 40-man roster, he will not start the 2023 season with the major league club. At the MLB Winter Meetings manager Derek Shelton said that Rodriguez will start the season in the minors.
Rodriguez may be ticketed for Triple-A to start the season while catcher remains a major question mark at the major league level, he is a big reaosn why the catching position could soon become a strength for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Rodriguez is not the only reason for this, however. There is also the no. 1 overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft - Henry Davis.
Largely due to injuries, unlike Rodriguez, Davis failed to reach the Triple-A level in 2022. Despite that, Davis, like Rodriguez, is a top-100 prospect in baseball and one of the top catching prospects in the game. Additionally, it would not be a surprise to see Davis join Rodriguez at Indianapolis when the 2023 season, putting both catchers on the doorstep of the majors.
If all goes according to plan, regardless of who the team's catcher is on Opening Day, Rdoriguez will be the Pirate catcher at some point rather early in the 2023 season. Hopefully, by mid-to-late June at the latest. This alone should make catcher a position where the Pirates are getting well above average production.
Again, if all goes according to plan, Davis should not be far behind Rodriguez when it comes to arriving in the majors. This could create a "good problem" for the Pittsburgh Pirates. What makes both Rodriguez and Davis such highly touted catching prospects is their offense. Both project as well above league average hitters, which is something you rarely find in a catcher.
Between the two, Rodriguez appears to be the superior defender of the two. He has a terrific pop time which helps him control the opposing running game, while also being a plus athlete behind the dish.
This is in no way a knock on Davis. While Davis may not be as strong of a defender behind the plate as Rodriguez, he is no slouch either. The best tool that Davis has is his bat and the power in it. He slugged .472 with an isolated slugging (ISO) of .208 in the minor league last season. Davis then backed this up by slugging .440 in the Arizona Fall League.
When both Rodriguez and Davis reach the majors catcher will quickly become a strength for the Pirates. Odds are, both will swing too good of a bat to be kept out of the lineup. This could lead to seeing a lot of days where one of them is catching while the other is the team's designated hitter. Davis could also learn first base, while Rodriguez has also played the outfielder and second base in the minor leagues.
Regardless of how things shake out between the two players, the Rodriguez/Davis combination could make the catcher position a strength for the Pittsburgh Pirates and soon. By the mid-to-late summer of 2023, catcher could really be a position of strength in Pittsburgh.