Highly touted Pittsburgh Pirates catching prospect Henry Davis is off to an outstanding start to 2023, but could he make his Major League debut before seeing any time at Triple-A?
When the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Henry Davis number one overall during the 2021 draft, they were hoping to get a top-of-the-line offensive catcher who could anchor a young line-up for the foreseeable future. Davis had a decent 2022, where he batted .264/.380/.472 with a .385 wOBA and 136 wRC+. He was hampered by injuries, mainly caused by the 20 hit-by-pitches the backstop suffered, but it was a promising season nonetheless.
Davis is currently stationed at Double-A Altoona, but with his astounding start to the season, could Davis skip Triple-A Indianapolis and go straight to the Major Leagues? Well, there is certainly an argument to be made for this.
Through his first 78 plate appearances this season Davis owns a strong .283/.449/.633 with a .485 wOBA and 201 wRC+. That means he's been 101% better than the league-average hitter so far this year. Davis has walloped six home runs, which is the second most among all batters at the Double-A level. Davis has been known to have good plate discipline, and he's continued that this season.
He has a 19.2% walk rate and a 23.1% strikeout rate. That strikeout rate is a tad high, but going into Tuesday's game, he had a 15:15 BB:K ratio. He struck out three times on May 2nd but still went two-for-five.
Davis isn't just hitting well; he is the best hitter at Double-A right now. His 201 wRC+ leads all Double-A hitters, while he ranks 4th in OPS, second on wOBA, and sixth in slugging percentage. Davis also ranks second in isolated slugging percentage, and by a fair margin. The difference between Davis and third place is 11 points.
The major league catching situation could look a lot better. Austin Hedges isn't doing anything with the bat, as expected, but Jason Delay has been vastly outperforming the veteran with the bat and is edging him out with the glove as well. Delay's great start gives the Pirates time to let Davis and Endy Rodriguez get some more playing time in, though the sustainability of his start is questionable.
I know that some may see this as rushing him to the big leagues, but he's had over 200 plate appearances at Altoona and is the best hitter at the most competitive level of the minor leagues. I definitely think that deserves recognition beyond "Here's your promotion to Triple-A." I also realize that a lot of fans are excited to see Endy Rodriguez, which I am also excited to see.
However, with the Pirates easing him back into action after an injury scare, that could open the door for Davis in the major leagues. While it wouldn't be a crime to see Davis sent to Triple-A instead, you can't deny that a 201 wRC+ deserves more attention than you would typically expect.