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Perrotto: Intangibles Better Henry Davis’ Chance for Success



Henry Davis, Pittsburgh Pirates

No player is under more scrutiny in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ spring training camp than Henry Davis.

It was assumed throughout the winter that Davis was likely going to be the starting catcher to begin the 2024 season. Then things changed just before the start of spring training when the Pirates signed veteran catcher Yasmani Grandal as a free agent.

Grandal seems likely to be the Pirates’ primary catcher to begin the season with Davis, Jason Delay and Ali Sanchez competing this spring to be the backup.

Yet it would be a surprise if the Pirates kept Davis in the major leagues as a second-stringer rather than giving him regular playing time at Triple-A Indianapolis. The team’s biggest concern about Davis is his defense behind the plate and it is why he caught just two innings in the big leagues last year as a rookie.

It would be hard for Davis to improve his defense by playing just once or twice a week for the Pirates.

Of course, the Pirates made the curious decision of playing Davis regularly in right field last season. I’m not a farm director but it seemed like a very peculiar way of developing a player.

So, all eyes or Davis during the Pirates’ camp in Bradenton, Fla.

Davis must prove to manager Derek Shelton and the coaching staff that he can be trusted to catch in major-league games. He must also show he is a more consistent offensive threat than last season when he hit .213/.302/.351 with seven home runs in 62 games.

Furthermore, Davis must cope with the increasing sentiment among the media and fans that he is trending toward being a potential bust. Considering he was the first overall pick in the 2021 amateur draft, it could be fairly expected that the 24-year-old would be established in the majors by this point.

However, it would be unwise to give up on Davis just yet. One thing stands out to me about Davis during his time with the Pirates last year and the early portion of spring training this year.

The guy is a worker.

Davis is one of the first guys to show up in the morning in Bradenton and one of the last to leave the clubhouse. He is in constant motion whether it’s working on his catching, taking extra batting practice or doing conditioning drills.

Furthermore, Davis had no offseason. He spent the winter months either working out at Pirate City in Bradenton or Driveline Baseball in Kent, Wash.

I asked Davis if he liked being a 12-month-a-year player recently. The look on his face made the answer obvious.

Usually serious and regimented, Davis broke into a smile.

I followed up by saying how obvious it is that he loves to play baseball. He smiled again.

“Thank you,” he said. “I really do.”

Time will tell whether Davis lives up to his billing as the No. 1 pick. Hard work and love of the game can only take a player so far.

Yet I’m willing to bet on a player with those attributes every time.

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