Cherington: 'This was the time' for No. 3 prospect Davis

June 5th, 2023

PITTSBURGH -- General manager Ben Cherington knew that Henry Davis wasn’t going to stay long at Double-A Altoona, and that the first overall pick from the 2021 MLB Draft would eventually suit up for Triple-A Indianapolis sometime this season.

The question was always when, not if.

“At some point, we knew he was going to have to move to Triple-A and this was the time.” Cherington said before the Pirates' 5-4 win over the A's.

Davis, the club's No. 3 prospect, had been knocking on the door of a promotion for quite some time. Across 187 plate appearances with Altoona, Davis hit .284/.433/.547 with 10 home runs and a 166 wRC+, a mark that ranks second in the Eastern League. Along with the standard numbers, Davis boasted a 17.1% walk rate and 18.7% strikeout rate. He had an 8.7% walk rate and 21.3% strikeout rate from 2021-22.

“He was performing offensively at a level where we felt like he was more than ready to meet the challenges,” Cherington said. “He improved as an offensive player even since Spring Training, focusing on the things we were challenging him on. Defensively, he’s made strides too. We got far enough into the season where he’d had a chance to be the primary catcher in Altoona and get that experience."

“We’re seeing what he’s capable of,” Altoona manager Callix Crabbe told in May. “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.”

In addition to Davis, Cherington anticipates that there will be more Minor League promotions in June with the Minor League season reaching its halfway point.

With Davis moving on up, the Pirates will have to balance Davis and catcher Endy Rodríguez’s -- the club’s No. 2 prospect -- playing time behind the plate. Cherington said that he anticipates their playing time at catcher will be “mostly even.” Cherington said that there might be weeks where one catches more than the other for a number of reasons, but the club will approach that on a week-by-week basis. On the days Davis and Rodríguez don’t catch, they’ll likely play a secondary position. For Davis, that’s right field. For Rodríguez, that’s first base.

In Davis’ last 20 games with Altoona, he spent 13 games at catcher, six games in right field and one at designated hitter. On May 11 and May 12, Davis played right field in back-to-back games for the first time in his career.

“I’m just trying to learn as much as I can as fast as possible, [and] be in a position where I can help the team win if I’m out there,” Davis told in May. “Taking feedback from the coaches and other outfielders is really helpful. All around, just trying to get in a spot where I can help.”

Rodríguez spent a good chunk of time at second base and left field during his Minor League career in addition to first base. In 2022, Rodríguez played 13 games in left field and 18 games in right field. For the time being, however, the Pirates plan for Rodríguez’s only secondary position to be first base.

“We haven't talked about anything past first base as of now,” Cherington said. “I think that's because we're still prioritizing catcher. We don't want to put too much on his plate. He's comfortable at a lot of spots on the field, but the priority for him is still to be a catcher.”

Davis and Rodríguez might have the capabilities to play other positions, but Cherington emphasized on Monday that the team looks at both Davis and Rodríguez as catchers. If Davis or Rodríguez were to be promoted to the Majors, they would be promoted as catchers. For Cherington, the Pirates’ best-case scenario is that both Davis and Rodríguez stick behind the plate.

“My view is the best outcome for the Pirates and for both of them would be to be Major League catchers,” Cherington said. “If they can do the things they're capable of doing offensively and handle the defensive responsibilities at catcher, that's a massive impact. So, longer term, that's our focus.

"We see all the time that [in the] short term on a day-to-day basis we do all kinds of things to put the team in the best position to win tonight. So, that's a balance. We always balance short-term and long-term. The long-term outcome, in our opinion, is that they're both catching a lot of games in the Major Leagues.”