PITTSBURGH -- When Henry Davis discussed the idea of being promoted with MLB.com in mid-May, his sights weren’t set on Triple-A Indianapolis. They were set on Pittsburgh. Before Davis gets to wear the black and gold, however, he’ll have to make one more pit stop.
“Everybody has that same goal,” Davis said. “Nobody in any clubhouse in the Minor Leagues really wants to be there. We all had a goal from the time we’re kids. Some people have had a taste of it. Some people haven’t yet. But everybody’s goal is to be in the big leagues. Put all your energy into that every day, and hopefully, good things will happen.”
After dealing with left wrist issues last season that hampered his production, Davis slashed .284/.433/.547 with 10 home runs across 41 games with Altoona. Entering Sunday, Davis’s 167 wRC+ was the second-highest mark in the Eastern League.
Davis’s plate discipline, in particular, took a step forward in the first two months of the season. Davis is boasting a 17.1% walk rate and an 18.7% strikeout rate this season. He had an 8.7% walk rate and 21.3% strikeout rate from 2021-22.
“I’ve just really been convicted in my approach,” Davis said. “Looking for something over the center and trying to hammer it regardless of the count and take an ‘A’ swing. I’ve found that the more I stay within the strike zone, output all across the board goes up.”
Added Altoona manager Callix Crabbe: “We’re seeing what he’s capable of. The extreme exit velocities have always been there. I think the most impressive part of his game is the continued growth in the swing decision area. He’s always been really good at making decisions, but the chase rate is really, really low.”
With Davis heading to Indianapolis, the Pirates will have to determine how they handle having both Davis and fellow catcher Endy Rodríguez -- the club’s No. 2 prospect -- on the same team.
The reason the Pirates had Davis start the season with Altoona, not Indianapolis, was to allow Davis and Rodríguez to both catch as much as possible. General manager Ben Cherington has said on multiple occasions that the organization sees both Davis and Rodríguez as catchers.
"Henry is learning how to be more efficient, learning what his process is," said director of coaching and player development John Baker in May. "He only had, I think, 59 professional games coming into the season. Playing every day is a different thing that you have to get used to physically. ... Like anything, you give Henry a target, and he attacks it with 100% ferocity. We’re seeing that.
"That’s what we asked him to do essentially. Focus on pitcher-catcher relationship, continue to put himself in a good position to throw, but all in all, go throughout the day without being noticed behind the plate. I can say that every game I watched -- and I watch every one of them -- he’s incrementally getting better at doing that. It’s exciting to see and a testament to the work that he’s put in also."
In recent weeks, however, Davis has spent more time in right field, likely in preparation for he and Rodríguez to be on the same team -- both in Indianapolis and, eventually, in Pittsburgh. Rodríguez has played 32 of his 34 games in the field at catcher, but he has spent good chunks of time at first base, second base and left field during his Minor League career.
“I’m just trying to learn as much as I can as fast as possible, be in a position where I can help the team win if I’m out there,” Davis said. “Taking feedback from the coaches and other outfielders is really helpful. All around, just trying to get in a spot where I can help.”
The Pirates have yet to say how they plan to distribute playing time at catcher between Davis and Rodríguez. Considering Indianapolis generally plays six times per week, the likeliest course of action is that Davis and Rodríguez each catch three games per week. On the days they don't catch, they can either play a secondary position or be used as the designated hitter.
"They’re going to impact Pittsburgh in the not-too-distant future," Baker said.