Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Let's Not Panic Over Henry Davis
By Noah Wright
Although some fans are panicking over Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Henry Davis and his development, let's all take a step back and not overreact to his development so far
The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Henry Davis no. 1 overall, and that kind of title comes with a lot of expectations. However, those high expectations are unreasonable for any prospect, no. 1 pick or not. That’s especially true with a catcher. Even the record-setting Adley Rustchman made his debut at 24, a year older than Davis is now. So when you see Henry Davis and his numbers for this year don’t jump off the page, let reasonable thoughts prevail and not panic over the catching prospect.
Now sure, Davis’ .226 batting average isn’t great. But not only is batting average not a very accurate measure to begin with, but in a microscopic sample size that isn’t even 50 plate appearances. Davis has a .217 batting average on balls in play. Keep in mind that BAbip can greatly fluctuate in small sample sizes, like Davis now. Sure, some players are low-BAbip merchants, but since the turn of the millennium, there’s no player in major league baseball with a BAbip below .220 in 800 or more plate appearances.
Besides that, Davis has walked more often than he’s struck out. He currently has a 7:6 BB:K ratio, which comes out to an 18% walk rate and 15.4% strikeout rate. He’s also completely ripping the cover off the ball when he does make contact. Raw power has never been a question for Davis. Plus, he’s not like Ke’Bryan Hayes, who struggles (or at least struggled) to lift the ball. He only had a 40.6% ground ball rate last season.
Even for those who are really stuck on the fact that Davis is batting below .220, keep in mind that it’s less than 50 plate appearances. Fellow top prospects like Marcelo Mayer, Druw Jones, Colson Montgomery, and Ezequiel Tovar are all batting at the Mendoza line or below. Davis isn’t the only one who isn’t running into too many hits. Davis has also walked more and struck out less than any of those four mentioned above.
I get that a lot of people put extremely high expectations on Davis. He was the #1 pick and considered a top-three talent in the draft class. Some expected him to take a Juan Soto-like path to the big leagues, nearly skipping every level between Greensboro to Indy and making an immediate impact within a year. Unfortunately, injuries have stalled him, but catchers naturally take longer to develop.
If you are panicking or already calling Davis a bust because he isn’t batting .300 through his first 39 plate appearances of 2023, or hasn’t flown through the minor leagues at a break-neck pace, take a step back and look at some other numbers than just BA. He still hits the ball hard, avoids strikeouts, and draws walks. Once his BAbip regulates, you’re still looking at the kind of hitter who could bat .280 and hit 30 home runs.