If ever there was a position with a lot of question marks for the Pittsburgh Pirates, it is who will be the Pirates’ starting catcher in 2022? This year’s group at Spring Training provide more questions than answers, as there are several individuals competing for who will be the catcher of the future for Pittsburgh’s ball club.
At this point, the presumed starter to open up at catcher is veteran Austin Hedges. December 2022 saw the former San Diego Padre and Cleveland Guardian join the Pirates in free agency, signing a one year deal. Hedges was drafted in the second round by San Diego in 2011, making his big league debut in 2015, and since then has been a solid presence at the backstop.
With that being said, Hedges is more or less a bridge player who will likely play average baseball for as long as he can while he still can. His last couple of seasons have not been great, but the Pirates need any kind of consistency that they can find at catcher, as 2022 was a rough year at the position. Hedges will be looking to prove that he can provide that consistency when the Buccos need it the most.
The catcher of the future is largely what the team will be looking at this spring, as top prospects Endy Rodriguez and Henry Davis will be fighting for their spot in Pittsburgh.
Rodriguez has skyrocketed before our eyes over this past year, and has gone from virtual unknown to the Pirates’ top prospect. 2022 saw Rodriguez win the Honus Wagner award as Pittsburgh’s top Minor League player, posting incredible numbers as a hitter. He led the Minor Leagues in several notable categories, including batting average (.323) and on base percentage (.407) while also tallying 25 home runs and 95 RBIs.
Rodriguez has proved to be more than capable as a hitter, and has impressed enough to be added to the 40 man roster, though GM Ben Cherington said he will start the season in the minors. Despite that, it is likely sooner than later that we see Rodriguez in Pittsburgh.
Though Rodriguez has been the most impressive as of late, there could still certainly be room at the table for the former first overall pick- Henry Davis.
A start in Altoona is likely where Davis will be found at the beginning of the season, but Indianapolis is within reach as the next proving ground. Davis impressed with his bat skills in 2022, showing he can hit with power and for average, as well as showing the versatility to play catcher and dabble in the outfield.
The biggest knock against Davis, especially versus Rodriguez, has been the time he’s missed behind the plate because of a lingering wrist injury. Rodriguez was able to get those reps, while Davis has missed out. However, when completely healthy, Davis is a force to be reckoned with and could lay claim to a roster spot after proving himself more in the Minors.
Non-roster invitees Jason Delay and Tyler Heineman will be back with the Buccos this year after seeing some playing time in 2022, along with Carter Bins and Kevin Plawecki.
The Pirates are looking for more consistency from their catchers this year, and Spring Training will look to be a good proving ground for who will take the reigns this year.