Pittsburgh Pirates make Henry Davis the surprise No. 1 overall pick

The Pirates went for a surprise pick with the top selection in the MLB Draft, Louisville catcher Henry Davis

The Pittsburgh Pirates didn’t wait long before blowing up all the MLB mock drafts.

Henry Davis wasn’t the top-ranked prospect coming into Sunday’s draft, but the Pirates made the Louisville catcher the first overall pick, joining Adley Rutschman and Joe Mauer as catchers to go with the top pick since 2001.

Davis is already a polished hitter. He batted .370 in his junior year at Louisville with 15 home runs in 184 at-bats, drawing more walks (31) than strikeouts (24). MLB Pipeline projects him to be a consistent 20-home run hitter in the big leagues, while also putting up a solid batting average. He also has a cannon arm behind the plate, throwing out 34 percent of baserunners at Louisville.

He already has a taste for what it takes to hit big-league pitching. After posting a 1.178 OPS as a sophomore in 2020, his season was cut short after 14 games. Davis went back home to Bedford, New York, and started working out with his brother in preparation for the next season. It was then that he saw a video online of Red Sox relief pitcher Adam Ottavino, also from Westchester County, throwing at home.

Davis reached out to Ottavino, and, to his surprise, Ottavino agreed to have him join his workouts. Catching Ottavino several times a week, Davis was able to see the pitches an established Major League hurler throws and what he needed to improve on. Before long, Ottavino’s Red Sox teammate Matt Barnes also joined their workouts, giving Davis the big-league mentors that helped him develop into the first overall pick.

History is on Pittsburgh’s side with selection of Davis

It may seem like a reach for the Pirates, who passed up top high school prospects Marcelo Mayer and Jordan Lawlar to take Davis, but experience shows it can work out. Twenty years ago, the Minnesota Twins skipped past the consensus top prospect, Mark Prior, to take a catcher from a Minnesota high school named Joe Mauer. Mauer joined the Twins three years later and went on to a 15-year career with the Twins that included an AL MVP and three batting titles.

The Pirates have been waiting for a catcher like Davis to join their organization for years. The club hasn’t had a qualified starting catcher hit above .300 since Jason Kendall in 2004; no Pirates catcher has ever hit more than 20 home runs in a season.

They hope Davis is the first. Davis, for his part, is ready to get started with the organization. “Hard worker. I want to win. Competitor,” he told MLB Network after his pick was announced on what the Pirates can expect from him. “I’m going to do everything I can to help this organization get to where it needs to be.”

He may not be Mauer, but the Pirates made this pick knowing that catchers with the offensive and defensive talent of Davis don’t come around that often.

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