It was naturally assumed that Henry Davis was the Pittsburgh Pirates’ catcher of the future when he joined the organization.
After all, the Pirates used the first overall pick of the 2021 amateur draft to select Davis from the University of Louisville. They then paid him a $6.5-million signing bonus.
Yet when Davis made his major-league debut last June 19, it was as a right fielder. He stayed with the Pirates through the end of the season, but his only action at catcher came in two one-inning stints at the end of blowout losses.
However, Davis can prove he belongs behind the plate during spring training. He is the presumptive favorite over Jason Delay in the competition to become the starting catcher.
The path became clearer for Davis when catcher Endy Rodriguez, who also made his big-league debut last season, underwent Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery in November. Rodriguez will miss the 2024 season.
Davis has spent the entire offseason preparing for the opportunity, training at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla., and Driveline Baseball, a training center in Kent, Wash.
The 24-year-old right-handed hitter struggled during his rookie season.
Davis batted just .213/.302/.351 with seven home runs in 62 games. He had minus-9 defensive runs saved in just 49 games in right field while also making 11 starts as the designated hitter.
Because of defensive deficiencies, the Pirates hesitated to use Davis as a catcher. His work at the position was limited almost exclusively to pre-game drills.
Little wonder Davis answered “nothing” when asked what he thought was the best part of his time in the major leagues.
Davis did double off Chicago Cubs left-hander Drew Smyly at PNC Park in his first career plate appearance. Davis then went hitless in 10 at-bats before hitting his first home run three days later off Marlins left-hander Andrew Nardi in Miami.
There were other slumps for Davis. He went hitless in 16 straight at-bats in July and snapped a 0-for-25 skid on Aug. 3.
Davis was on the injured list from Aug. 21-Sept. 15 with a strained right hand.
However, Davis also had a few big moments. The biggest was on July 21 when he became the first major-leaguer to hit two home runs in a game off Los Angeles Angels two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani.
Davis began last season with Double-A Altoona and batted .284/.433/.547 with 10 homers in 51 games. He was promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis on June 5 and had a .375/.516/.604 slash line and two homers in 14 games before being called up by the Pirates.
Davis started 34 times at catcher in the minor leagues, 16 in right field and five as the DH.
His next challenge is to show he can primarily be a catcher in the major leagues.