These three players can make or break the Pirates' 2024 season

The Pirates likely won't be able to make a run in 2024 without significant contributions from all three of these players

Chicago Cubs v Pittsburgh Pirates
Chicago Cubs v Pittsburgh Pirates / Joe Sargent/GettyImages
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2. Henry Davis

Davis is also off to a hot start at the plate this spring; he's tied for second in homers this spring with four. His first taste of MLB pitching last season was really the first time he's struggled offensively at any level, and he's worked tirelessly - both this spring and throughout the winter - to improve his craft behind the plate. But this has to work.

It's pretty set in stone at this point that Davis is going to catch, and he's probably going to catch quite a bit. But how we got to this point, quite frankly, is pretty unfortunate.

Despite being almost exclusively a catcher throughout his college and minor league careers, Davis spent all of two innings behind the dish in Pittsburgh last year. And just one of those innings came in the month and a half that he and catching guru Austin Hedges co-existed on the roster. The Pirates claimed that they intended to give Davis more looks behind the plate before a late-August thumb injury brought his rookie campaign to a halt.

The team's catching depth took a significant hit when fellow former top prospect Endy Rodriguez suffered an elbow injury in winter ball that required Tommy John surgery. The Bucs also came up short in their pursuit of free agent Gary Sanchez, who wound up with the divisional-rival Brewers. The resulting pivot netted the Pirates 35-year-old Yasmani Grandal, who has already contracted plantar fasciitis, hasn't played in over two weeks, and likely won't see game action for at least another.

With Grandal's status up in the air, the backup plan to Davis appears to be Jason Delay, who leads the team in games caught in each of the last two seasons. Delay hit a robust .390 in April 2023, but that figure was inflated by an unsustainable .417 BABIP. His .543 OPS after the month of April was 25 points lower than the career OPS of Austin Hedges, whose departure at the trade deadline was one of the highlights of the season in the eyes of many fans.

Davis' offensive ceiling puts him in pretty small company among his peers. Being a #1 overall draft pick just three years ago, he'll receive every opportunity to fulfill that potential. But if he can't stick behind the plate for whatever reason - and the concerns that he can't are valid - that puts this team in a really, really tough spot.