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Perrotto: Other 2021 Draft Picks Need to Offset Henry Davis

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Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Bubba Chandler

The Pittsburgh Pirates’ 2021 draft class should have been a good one if for no other reason than they had the first overall pick.

The eventual impact of the class, though, is most likely going to rely on players who were selected after the first pick.

The Pirates optioned catcher Henry Davis to Triple-A Indianapolis prior to Friday night’s 3-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies at PNC Park. Davis was sent packing so the Pirates could open a roster spot for catcher Yasmani Grandal’s activation from the injury list.

While it would be unfair to write Davis off at 24, he has not yet given much of an indication that he can be an impact player in the major leagues.

Davis was given the starter catcher’s job at the start of the season and hit .162/.286/.206 with no home runs in 23 games. Despite spending the entire offseason working on his catching, Davis had minus-4 defensive runs saved.

In a sense, it was confirmation of why the Pirates believe Endy Rodriguez will be their primary catcher next year after missing this season while recovering from elbow surgery.

The Pirates losing 17 of their last 22 games following a 9-2 start to the season can’t be pinned entirely on Davis. However, he has played as large of a hand as anyone in the slumping lineup.

“I think there’s some adjustments that the major-league game has kind of showed him that need to be made,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said.

Davis has played 85 games over two major-league seasons. Not a big sample size but large enough that the statistics matter.

Davis’ career slash line is .201/.297/.317 with seven homers. He also has minus-13 DRS after being responsible for minus-9 in just 49 games as a right fielder last season. That the Pirates played Davis in right field instead of at catcher was telling.

With seemingly every plate appearance, it’s becoming apparent that Davis is not going to be a star. The question is more about whether Davis is going to at least turn out to be a competent regular.

One thing Davis has going in his favor is his outstanding work ethic. The guy is serious about baseball.

“I think the thing that we know about Henry is he’s probably one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around at the major-league level,” Shelton said. “He’s going to go down there with a task and work at it.”

What the Pirates need now is for at least one of three prospects to hit it big: Double-A Altoona left-hander Anthony Solometo and right-hander Bubba Chandler and High-A Greensboro center fielder Lonnie White Jr.

The Pirates gave Davis a $6.5 million signing bonus, which was below the slot value set by Major League Baseball. That was part of the plan to use the savings to sign Chandler ($3 million), Solometo ($2.8 million) and White ($1.5 million) to over-slot bonuses.

Chandler is 1-1 with a 3.63 ERA in five starts this season and Solometo is 0-1 with a 6.23 in four starts. White has been limited to 85 games in his four professional seasons and has an injured list stint this year.

Baseball America ranked Chandler as the Pirates’ second-best prospect coming into spring training behind Paul Skenes. The publication had Solometo at No. 5 and White at No. 17.

Whether any of those players pan out remains to be seen. Davis certainly isn’t trending that way, which is a blow to the Pirates’ never-ending rebuilding process.

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