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The Road to The Show™: Pirates catcher Davis

No. 18 overall prospect already a key piece in club’s rebuild
Henry Davis was promoted to Double-A Altoona in May, just 10 months after being drafted with the top overall pick. (Rob Lynn/Altoona Curve)
July 5, 2022

Each week, profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at Pirates No. 2 prospect Henry Davis. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here. With the top overall pick in last year’s

Each week, profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at Pirates No. 2 prospect Henry Davis. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here.

With the top overall pick in last year’s Draft, the Pirates opted to select catcher Henry Davis and bolster the top of the farm system at a premium position. In fewer than 50 games so far in the Minors, however, Davis is proving to be more than a value play.

It’s not often that Pittsburgh finds itself in an advantageous financial position. But with the largest bonus pool in last year’s Draft, the Pirates complemented the Davis pick with over-slot deals to land three highly ranked high schoolers -- most notably Bubba Chandler, who got a reported $3 million bonus to sign him away from his commitment to Clemson.

Davis and the Pirates agreed to a reported $6.5 million bonus, which was nearly $2 million below slot value. He was ranked by MLB Pipeline as the fifth-best prospect in the Draft.

"I think what was really important to us was two things,” Pirates general manager Ben Cherington told after Davis signed last July. “No. 1, we want to find the best player in the country, and No. 2, we also want to find the right person that we could work together with to help us build a winning team in Pittsburgh. We feel very excited and honored and confident we found that person in Henry Davis.”

During the pandemic-shortened season in 2020, his sophomore year at the University of Louisville, Davis emerged as one of the best college bats available in the next year’s class. He began what seemed to be an unsustainable pace in just 14 games in 2020, but posted nearly identical numbers in his junior season. Davis batted .370 with a 1.146 OPS, 15 homers and 48 RBIs while drawing more walks (31) than strikeouts (24) in his last season with the Cardinals.

Despite his excellence in a talented Atlantic Coast Conference, there was still some work for Davis to stand out as a potential No. 1 overall pick. Fortunately, the Pirates were able to get some more clarity and confirm their already favorable opinion of Davis at the inaugural Draft combine.

“There wasn’t any single thing we uncovered that day with Henry; it was all a part of continuing to get touches, continuing to get in front of Henry,” Pirates scouting director Joe DelliCarri told in June. “Every time you get together, you learn something new. You may gain a perspective that hadn't come out before, so we have felt strongly as an organization to continue the process to keep on getting in front of the players. At the Combine, we definitely had our leadership group on the amateur side in front of him.”

With the exception of a couple injury hiccups, Davis hit the ground running in pro ball.

The No. 18 overall prospect made it to Double-A Altoona this May, just 10 months after being drafted. He’s been limited by injuries to his oblique and, most recently, his wrist that sidelined him for extended periods of time.

The oblique injury last summer shut him down after his first eight professional games. Davis had a quick tune-up in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League, then jumped to High-A Greensboro for six games before suffering the injury. During those eight contests, Davis had six extra-base hits, including three homers -- the first of which came in his professional debut on Aug. 3.

The latest injury to his wrist came from unusual circumstances and kept him away from the Curve for nearly a month almost immediately after his promotion.

The 22-year-old homered in his Double-A debut but was shut down after his next game with Altoona. Some imaging showed that he had a fracture in his wrist, which actually happened when he got hit by a pitch while playing with Greensboro.

Davis, who has only made 214 professional plate appearances, gets hit by an inordinate number of pitches. He got plunked 11 times before going on the IL and in each of his two rehab games in June. He’s since been hit four more times in the past 15 games. His 17 HBPs put him in a three-way tie for the fourth-most in the Minors, despite having at least 31 fewer plate appearances than anyone ahead of him on the list.

He’s struggled since returning from the injured list in June, but there’s little reason to worry. Prior to his wrist injury, Davis was having an excellent season with High-A Greensboro and in a short stint with Altoona, batting .333 with a 1.051 OPS, six homers and 24 RBIs.

Davis possesses attention-grabbing power and a very good feel for the strike zone. He also has 70-grade arm strength. Davis has also worked to get better behind the plate while learning how to work with a pitching staff. Before being drafted, Davis took a flier on potentially becoming a throwing partner with veteran reliever Adam Ottavino. When Ottavino agreed to work with the nearby neophyte, whose home in Bedford, New York, was only a short trip from Ottavino in Connecticut, more opportunities opened. Davis eventually got some work in with Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes.

“The guy was an absolute stud,” Barnes told last July. “He had absolutely no problem catching me, warming me up and getting it going. It was a lot of fun.”

Pittsburgh has already called upon top prospects like Oneil Cruz and Liover Peguero this season. It’s not unreasonable to think that players like Nick Gonzales and Quinn Priester can debut in the Majors next year. The Pirates’ uncertain future has a lot more clarity than it did even a year ago. For a team that seems to finally be turning a corner on its rebuild, Davis is a valuable, steadying presence.

Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for