Cherington 'very confident' in Davis' offensive progress in Triple-A

May 25th, 2024

PITTSBURGH -- Coming into the year, the question was whether would play well enough behind the plate to justify keeping his bat in the lineup. It turned out that it was the opposite. His defense was greatly improved, but he wasn’t hitting.

The Pirates optioned him to Triple-A Indianapolis on May 3, and he has torn up International League pitching since then, slashing .320/.469/.760 with four doubles, six homers and 14 RBIs in 14 games.

“He's gone down there with a purpose and not surprisingly, he's working hard,” said general manager Ben Cherington of Davis. “Defensive side of the game has remained solid, in a similar place to where it was here. Obviously, as you can see, the offensive performance has been strong. We're seeing progress, even aside from the OPS and what the surface results look like. We're seeing progress in the specific area he's been attacking down there.”

There’s no question the Pirates think he’s worthy of another shot in the Majors. They wouldn’t have drafted him with the No. 1 pick in the 2021 Draft if they were just going to give up on him less than three years later.

While there is a full expectation that he will play in the Majors again this year, there isn’t a timeline for when that could be. While he’s crushing the ball right now, one can’t ignore that he is also facing a less talented pool of opposing pitchers in the Minors.

“We’re seeing progress in a certain area. How much of that is improvement? How much of that is quality of pitching?” Cherington explained. “Not easy to tease that out all the time. But we feel pretty confident in what we see that there is progress. We’re very confident that he’s focused on the right stuff. The things that he’s communicating to us make us feel real good that he’s clear about what he’s going after. That’s the most important thing.”

More from Cherington:

• Coming into the year, the bullpen was originally identified as a potential strength for this club, but that hasn’t been the case so far. As a unit, their 4.66 ERA is the second-highest in the National League behind the Rockies, and their -0.13 win probability added (according to FanGraphs) ranks in the bottom five of MLB, before they allowed 2 runs in 1 2/3 innings in Pittsburgh's 11-5 win on Friday against the Braves.

While the results haven’t been what the team wanted, Cherington does have optimism for the group.

“I'm not sure we've had any one time the entire bullpen clicking together,” Cherington said. “We've had different guys clicking at different times. Believe in the talent. Believe the talent's there for it to be a really good unit. We're going to continue to support them and work with them.

"I really do believe that, maybe different than some years in the past that I've been here, the solution is here. I think we have the guys here to do it. Just got to find those answers, get to more level of consistency.”

• On Thursday, first baseman was booed multiple times from the PNC Park crowd during his 0-for-4 performance, which dropped his slash line to .175/.242/.225. He was signed this winter as a bounce-back candidate, but has just one home run and eight RBIs on the year.

While his playing time has decreased lately, there is still the question of what the Pirates see to justify giving him more opportunities to get right.

“The underlying physical traits are still there,” Cherington said. “The bat speed, the ability to hit the ball really hard. He's healthy, he's working hard. He's scuffling. He knows that, we all know that. I know he feels the burden of that and he's accountable for it. We're all accountable for our performance ultimately. The same reasons that we pursued him, those same reasons are there.”

Tellez’s bat speed does grade out well, with Baseball Savant measuring it at an average of 74.2 mph, the second-fastest on the team behind Oneil Cruz. And while his average exit velocity (89.4 mph) and hard-hit rates (41.6%) are lower than they were in 2021 and 2022, they are still above the league average.

At some point, though, there need to be tangible results, and Cherington is open that Tellez has not produced the outcomes the Pirates wanted to see, or what he wants to see.

“He wants to be doing better than he is,” Cherington said. “Nobody wants to be doing better than he does."