Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Henry Davis Prime Breakout Candidate For 2023

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New York Mets v Pittsburgh Pirates / Justin Berl/GettyImages

After being one of the top prospects in the Pirate system the previous two seasons, some scouts believe that Henry Davis has not lived up to the hype, is overrated, and have already considered him a bust due to injuries and limited offensive production. However, Henry Davis is going to prove the naysayers wrong and is bound to break out in 2023.

After a dominant college career at the University of Louisville, Henry Davis was widely considered to be one of the top available college bats in the 2021 draft class. In 3 seasons at Louisville, Davis posted a combined .337/.435/.566, hit 21 home runs, drove in 84 runs, and stole 11 bases across 428 plate appearances. At that time, the 21-year-old Davis was also known for his powerful 70-grade arm strength, raw 70-grade power potential, solid plate discipline, average fielding ability, and solid athleticism. Due to his success and impressive intangibles, the Pittsburgh Pirates selected Davis as the number one overall pick in the 2021 MLB draft.

Following the draft, Davis started off the 2021 season with a brief two-game stint in the Florida Coast League and a six-game stint in High-A Greensboro, posting a .263/.375/.684, hit 2 home runs, drove in 3RBI, and had a .424wOBA alongside a 161wRC+. Davis would miss the remaining 5 weeks of the season due to an oblique injury, derailing the start of his career.

Henry Davis started off the 2022 season with a brief five-game stint with Low-A Bradenton, hitting .364/.467/.727, with 1 home run, 2 RBI, and a 217 wRC+. Davis walked 6.7% of the time at the plate and limited his strikeouts to just 13.3%. This was a small sample size for Davis, but it was still impressive nonetheless. After a solid stint in Bradenton, the 22-year-old Davis was promoted to High-A Greensboro and dominated immediately, posting a .341/.450/.585, hit 5 homeruns, 22RBI, and had a .461 wOBA and a 180 wRC+ across 100 plate appearances. Davis' plate discipline improved, walking 8% of the time at the plate, hitting 19 singles, 3 doubles, and 1 triple while limiting his strikeouts to just 18%.

Following his successful season with the Grasshoppers, Davis struggled after being promoted to Double-A Altoona, posting a .207/.324/.379, hit 4 home runs, 18 RBI, and had a .320 wOBA and a 97 wRC+ in 136 plate appearances.

While those numbers don't look great at face value, try and take them with a grain of salt. Davis suffered a hairline wrist fracture early on with the Curve and his wrist injuries plagued him offensively. Davis tried to come back from the injury too early, but he had to go back on the injured list once his offensive production slowed down. Davis was hit by a pitch 20 times in 59 games, which was the likely cause of the wrist injuries. Even with his injuries, Davis increased his walk percentage to 8.8%, but his strikeout percentage jumped up to 22.1%.

Since being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Davis has only accumulated 283 plate appearances (many of which were limited due to injuries) and hasn't played a full season in the minor leagues, so there is a lot of Henry Davis that we haven't seen yet. Even though Davis has shown great potential throughout his time in the minor leagues, fielding has been Davis' biggest issue and he still has a lot of retooling to do.

Even though fellow catching prospect Endy Rodriguez seems to have surpassed Henry Davis in terms of his development, prospect status, and expected arrival in the Major Leagues, Davis does have the potential to be an excellent player moving forward with the Pirates. Even if he struggles as a catcher, the 6'2", 210 pound Davis has the arm strength and athleticism needed to play in the corner outfield or first base, and he could become a dominant future DH for the Pirates with his offensive prowess if his fielding does not improve at catcher. In the future, Davis could easily hit close to .300 and hit double digit home run numbers, but only time will tell if Davis develops properly and if that dream comes to fruition.

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Even after a somewhat "disappointing" season with Altoona, I believe that we as Pirates fans have not seen Davis at his best and with a full healthy season under his belt, Davis is bound to break out with the Altoona Cuve and the Indianapolis Indians in 2023. Many scouts have already given up on Davis, but I sure haven't. If Davis succeeds on both teams, expect Davis to debut in late 2023 or sometime in 2024 with the Pittsburgh Pirates.