Entering the 2021 season, the Pirates had ZERO catchers on their Prospects1500 preseason Top 50 prospects. Oh, how times have changed for the better! The 2021 MLB Draft and several trades both before and during the season have completely changed the Pittsburgh prospect catching landscape. The Pirates now have four catchers in my Midseason Top 50, including the #1 overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft Henry Davis, as well as several others who could crack the Top 50 next season. Let’s take a closer look at the Pirates’ catching throughout the system, and for fun, I will venture a guess at where each player will start 2022.
1. Henry Davis, Midseason Rank #3
Davis is a consensus top 50 prospect in baseball. He has drawn rave reviews for his hit tool, power, throwing arm, and intangibles such as leadership and the absolute drive to succeed. He started hitting right out of the gate this summer and jumped to High-A Greensboro from the Florida Complex League (FCL) skipping over Low-A Bradenton. He then hit the ground running in Greensboro before an oblique injury prematurely ended his season. It’s possible that Davis could play in the Arizona Fall League (AFL) to make up for lost time and work on his defense. Reading between the lines from interviews given by Pirates FO members suggest that Davis could start next season at AA Altoona along with other top prospects Nick Gonzales, Quinn Priester and Liover Peguero. Altoona Curve 2022 will be a must-watch.
2. Endy Rodriguez, Midseason Rank #22
Endy has had a breakout season in Low-A Bradenton where he helped lead the Marauders to a Low-A Southeast Championship. Endy was part of the Joe Musgrove deal in January 2021 where he was essentially traded by the Mets straight up for Joey Lucchesi. The Mets may ultimately regret that trade. Although he is primarily a catcher, he has gained valuable experience in LF and 1B. He has also served as the DH 22 times so far just to keep his switch-hitting bat in the lineup. This season he slashed .294/.380/.512 with 15 HR in a very pitcher-friendly league. He needs to work on his defense, especially the exchange from glove to hand on throws to 2B. Next season, I expect him to be the primary catcher in High-A Greensboro.
Endy Rodríguez led the league with a .294 AVG, becoming the first Marauder to lead the league in batting since Josh Bell’s .335 AVG paced the circuit in 2014.
(Thanks to Dan Hart for that one as well). #Pirates
— Spenser Smith (@TheSpenserSmith) September 21, 2021
3. Carter Bins, Midseason Rank #45
Bins came to the Pirates from the Mariners at the deadline. Bins was assigned to AA Altoona. Prior to the trade, Bins was outstanding in High-A and earned a promotion to AA. Since the trade, he has struggled at the plate and throwing out runners. There is hope, however. Bins has shown a good eye at the plate walking 15% since the trade. Perhaps a strong spring gets him an assignment to AAA Indianapolis. Otherwise, he could be passed by another catcher.
4. Abrahan Gutierrez, Midseason Rank #47
Gutierrez was acquired from the Phillies at the deadline and, aside from a short IL stint, has raked ever since for Low-A Bradenton. Between Philadephia and Pittsburgh Low-A affiliates this season, Gutierrez slashed .290/.448/.441 and sported a 17.3% walk rate against a 14.4% K rate. Gutierrez also showed solid defense. I see Gutierrez moving with Endy to High-A Greensboro forming a truly scary catching combo.
— Bradenton Marauders (@The_Marauders) September 22, 2021
5. Blake Sabol, Midseason unranked
Sabol was a 7th round pick in the 2019 draft for the Pirates out of Southern Cal. Sabol is 23 and a bit old for Low-A and High-A. But he did was supposed to do and put up big numbers at both stops. Combined he reached the magical .300/.400/.500 plateau with a slash line of .310/.406/.551 with 13 HR. He has had success (in a small sample) throwing out would-be base stealers. Sabol could be that rare but extremely valuable MLB bench player with a powerful bat that plays a corner OF spot, 1B, and catcher. I see Sabol joining Henry Davis in AA Altoona to form a lethal catching combo.
6. Geovanny Planchart, Midseason unranked
Planchart turned 20 years old on 9/17/21. He has had success in his first season in the US playing for the Pirates Gold FCL team slashing .321/.398/.464. Planchart has an exciting offensive profile but has work to do defensively. He will likely have the chance to further develop in Low-A Bradenton in 2022.
The new front office led by Ben Cherington has remade the system across the board. Perhaps that change is most evident at the catching position. A weakness has become a strength.