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Floyd: Catcher is Pirates’ Most Interesting Spring Training Storyline

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Pittsburgh Pirates, Endy Rodriguez, Pirates prospects

This is the fourth in a series where PittsburghBaseballNow.com writers pick what they feel will be the Pittsburgh Pirates’ most interesting storyline of spring training.

Having a wealth of talent is the best problem to have. 

The most interesting storyline of spring training—one that could help determine the shape of the Pirates’ roster for a good chunk of the next decade—is the battle between Endy Rodriguez and Henry Davis to see who will get a leg up in the quest to become Pittsburgh’s catcher of the future. 

Rodriguez earned a spot on the Pirates’ 40-man roster thanks to his 2022 campaign, which saw him named Pittsburgh’s Minor League Player of the Year after slashing .323/.407/.590 with 25 home runs and 60 walks in 125 games. 

Davis, the first overall pick of the 2021 MLB Draft, played in just 59 games in 2022 after a promising season became derailed by a series of injuries to his left wrist.

Rodriguez, who was a relative unknown when the Pirates acquired him as part of the Joe Musgrove trade, leapfrogged Davis—and most of the rest of the Pirates’ prospects—as he climbed from High-A Greensboro to Triple-A Indianapolis in the course of a summer. He’s in the driver’s seat for now, but the onus is on him to solidify his place at the table and prove that his breakout campaign wasn’t a fluke.

Unlike Rodolfo Castro, who could easily play himself out of the Pirates’ plans with a shoddy spring, both Rodriguez and Davis will be part of Pittsburgh’s future. The Pirates don’t yet have the talent built up to begin flipping prospects away when a positional logjam occurs.

Finding Plan B

The two players’ bats are reason enough to save them an everyday place in the major league lineup, but unlike the three open outfield spots, there’s only one catcher: their talents go to waste if they ride the bench. They’ll need to find a place for the player who doesn’t settle down at catcher to call home.

Both Davis and Rodriguez have spent a fair amount of time in the outfield, with the latter trying his hand at second base too. 

Spring training could provide a glimpse at how the Pirates’ leadership feels about where the two players fit. 

Seeing which player gets the majority of innings at catcher, where they play the field when they’re not behind the dish, or if they continually get penciled in at designated hitter will allow one to watch in real time as the Pirates figure out to do. Of course, these games don’t happen in a vacuum, and other players will need to get time at different positions around the diamond.

This storyline will continue beyond spring training and into the MiLB season: neither player will break camp with the team. If Rodriguez and Davis are assigned to different levels of the farm system but one—or both—continue to spend a good deal of time at positions other than catcher, the Pirates could tip their hand at where a pair of potential franchise cornerstones will find their permanent home.

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