Former no. 1 overall pick Henry Davis should be in position to begin to make a major impact with the Pittsburgh Pirates this season
One position the Pittsburgh Pirates needed to address this offseason was catcher. After re-signing Tyler Heineman to a minor league deal, the team also added veteran backstop Austin Hedges to a one-year contract.
When the season begins Hedges will be the team's primary catcher with Heineman likely serving as his backup. However, as the 2023 season progresses the team's catching situation is likely to change as it trends upward. One of the changes to the position that fans are likely to see is the addition of the no. 1 overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft - Henry Davis.
To be honest, if not for injuries there is a legitimate chance that Davis could have made his MLB debut last season. When he was drafted Davis was viewed as an advanced college hitter who could rise through the minor leagues quickly. However, injuries, specifically those caused by an abnormally large amount of hit by pitches, have slowed this down.
Despite his injury issues, Davis has produced offensively throughout his minor league career. He is also very close to the major leagues. It remains to be seen where he will start the 2023 season at, but Davis starting at Triple-A Indianapolis is certainly a possiblity.
The only reason Davis may start the season back at Double-A Altoona instead of with Indianapolis is due to Endy Rodriguez. Odds are the Pittsburgh Pirates will want both of their top 100 catching prosepcts behind the dish on a daily basis. This combined with Rodriguez reaching Triple-A last season and posting a 208 wRC+ in 23 plate appearances with the Indians, will likely have him starting the season back at Indy. This is likely to bump Davis down to Double-A.
Even if Davis starts the season at Double-A he should still be viewed as being on the brink of the major leagues. While Rodriguez would likely get the call before Davis due to being on the 40-man roster if the Pirates need a catcher, Davis will still be close to the majors when the season begins.
Whenever Davis reaches the major leagues he will be looked upon to make an immediate impact with his bat. The Pirates carrying three catchers at some point this season should not be ruled out. In addition to being able to catch, Davis can also serve as the team's designated hitter due to him projecitng to be a plus hitter. Rodriguez can play the outfield and second base in addition to catching. All of these factors will make it easier for the Pirates to potentially carry both of these catchers in addition to Hedges, while also getting both of their young catchers regular at-bats.
There is also the possibility that Hedges is moved to a contender at the trade deadline. Since he made his MLB debut in 2015 Hedges leads all catchers in Defensive Runs Saved, is a terrific game caller, can handle a pitching staff, and has postseason experience. All of these will make his a desirable trade piece for contenders in need of catching help come July.
It would not be a surprise to see Davis as part of the team's catching tandem by August, if not sooner. Even if Hedges is moved, the team may still carry a third catcher such as Heineman just to make it easier to get Davis or Rodriguez's bat in the lineup at DH or another position.
Regardless of how it shakes out, as long as he stays healthy Davis should be a big part of the Pirate lineup by the end of the season. If he hits well in the minors and is healthy, no matter what is happening on the MLB roster, the Pirates will find a way to get Davis ABs. 2023 season should be a big season for Davis and breaking through into the majors.