Meet the Pirates' catching duo of the future
BRADENTON, Fla. -- At some point this season, Henry Davis and Endy Rodriguez will earn their first call-ups and arrive in Pittsburgh. The future of the Pirates hinges, at least partially, on the shoulders of these young catchers, but Rodriguez possesses no reservations about what they can accomplish.
“When we are together in the bigs, we’re going to do something special,” Rodriguez said. “I promise.”
The matter of “when” is to be determined. That moment could arrive as early as this summer. They’ll in all likelihood begin the season with Triple-A Indianapolis, but their days in the Minors are coming to an end. Regardless of the specifics, they’re ready to help usher in the next era of winning baseball in Pittsburgh.
“Every day that we take the field, every day we’re off the field, we have a job to do. If we do it, we’re going to help win; it’s as simple as that,” Davis said. “It’s something we’re both incredibly excited for. I think we both know we can contribute. That’s on-field, off-field, with our teammates. In many different ways, we can contribute. It’s something we take seriously."
Davis and Rodriguez present a fascinating stylistic juxtaposition, a pair of catchers carved from two drastically different molds. Davis has a sturdy build with ballistic power and a bazooka for an arm. Rodriguez, by contrast, is an athletic and loose switch-hitter with super-utility capabilities.
“Endy’s a little more fluid and whippy. Henry’s a little more strong and robust, I’d say,” said Quinn Priester, the Pirates’ No. 4 prospect per MLB Pipeline. “It’s just that they’re different players. They’re a different style. They both do things extremely well.”
One thing they both do extremely well, of course, is hit.
Rodriguez, who scored in the Pirates' 7-2 win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday, is the organization’s reigning Minor League Player of the Year, hitting 25 home runs with a .997 OPS across three different levels. Davis grinded through a left wrist issue last season -- the hook in his left wrist completely broke, limiting Davis as both a catcher and hitter -- but still hit 10 home runs, stole nine bases and posted a .852 OPS.
Davis and Rodriguez’s favorite aspects of each other’s game don’t show up in the stat sheet. Rodriguez praises Davis’ ability to remain calm and cool. Davis marvels over Rodriguez’s feel and intellect.
“It’s hard to quantify how talented he is and where he can do everything. The dude can throw with his left hand. He can hit from both sides. He can run, he can control the strike zone, he can catch, he can play infield,” Davis said. “More than that, the way he can see a field, the way he can understand how a guy is going to work him at the plate, the way he can call a game, the way he can run the bases, his baseball IQ is tremendous. I think something like that really doesn’t get the chance to flourish until you’re at the highest level.”
Wait, he can throw with his left hand, too?
“Oh yeah,” Davis laughed. “I don’t think there’s anything he can’t do, honestly."
There is, however, one limitation of this burgeoning do -- they can’t catch at the same time.
A shortstop can move to third base. A center fielder can move to the corners. There’s room for multiple infielders. There’s room for multiple outfielders. But there’s only room for one catcher.
This dynamic would be more problematic if not for Rodriguez’s polymathic versatility. Over the last two years, Rodriguez spent time at first base, second base and left field, along with his catching responsibilities. Davis might bounce around as well -- he had two cameos in right field with Double-A Altoona -- but Rodriguez’s versatility provides the Pirates with multiple avenues to get both of them into the lineup.
“I don’t care if I play first, second or whatever other position,” Rodriguez said. “If both of us can help the team win, that’s what I want.”
The Pirates can employ several different combinations when Davis and Rodriguez reach the Majors. One game might feature Davis catching and Rodriguez playing first base, second base or left. Another game might feature Rodriguez catching with Davis at designated hitter or in the outfield.
The specifics are another problem for another day. What matters more is that, sometime this year, they’ll be together in Pittsburgh. To Rodriguez, when that day comes, the duo will begin to accomplish something special.