Former 1st-rounders Jason Kendall, Neil Walker praise Pirates for picking catcher Henry Davis No. 1 overall

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TribLIVE 14 July, 2021 - 10:51am 8 views

Who was the first pick in the MLB draft?

The first overall selection in the MLB draft, Henry Davis, could earn over $8 million from the Pittsburgh Pirates. MarketWatchHere’s how much money the 2021 MLB draft picks will make

Who did the Red Sox pick in the draft?

Share All sharing options for: The Boston Red Sox select Marcelo Mayer with the 4th overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft. With the 4th overall pick, the Boston Red Sox have selected Marcelo Mayer, a shortstop out of Eastlake High School. MLB Daily DishThe Boston Red Sox select Marcelo Mayer with the 4th overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft

How many rounds are in the MLB draft?

Rounds 2-10 will take place Monday and rounds 11-20 will take place Tuesday. The draft was shortened from 40 rounds to five rounds last year as a cost-cutting move during the pandemic. There will be 20 rounds this year. CBS sports.com2021 MLB Draft tracker: Live results, draft order for Day 2; analysis of every first-round pick

Who has the first pick in the 2021 MLB draft?

2021 MLB Draft: Red Sox first-round pick Marcelo Mayer quickly ditches Yankees allegiance. Marcelo Mayer was expected by many to be the No. 1 pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, yet the 18-year-old shortstop from Eastlake High School in California somehow fell to the Red Sox with the No. 4 overall selection. Sporting News2021 MLB Draft: Red Sox first-round pick Marcelo Mayer quickly ditches Yankees allegiance

Major League Baseball completed its 2021 amateur draft on Tuesday. The three-day, 20-round event began on Sunday night at the Bellco Theatre in Denver, when the Pittsburgh Pirates used their fifth No. 1 pick in franchise history to select Louisville catcher Henry Davis.

Hundreds upon hundreds of names have since been called, including familiar ones like Washington Nationals draftee Darren Baker. CBS Sports had you covered with takeaways from day one and two of this year's draft.

Judging a draft at its conclusion is silly in any context, and borders on ridiculous in baseball, where even the most promising youngsters spend several years in the minors. For evidence of this, reflect upon how everyone but the Texas Rangers whiffed on Evan Carter last summer. Nonetheless, sometimes you have to ignore your better angels to appease the content gods.

With that in mind, we're here to get foolish with it by naming some apparent winners and losers of the 2021 MLB draft.

The team with the top pick and the largest bonus pool in the class should walk away from the draft looking like a winner. Still, we'll give the Pirates props for executing the portfolio approach (popularized over the last decade by the Houston Astros and Baltimore Orioles) to a tee.

The Pirates ostensibly saved money by selecting Davis instead of Marcelo Mayer, Jack Leiter, or Jordan Lawlar. They then used those savings to select three other players who were on CBS Sports' pre-draft top-50 list: lefty Anthony Solometo, outfielder Lonnie White Jr., and righty Bubba Chandler.

There is room for disagreement on how wise it is to take this route versus the traditional path, which entails taking the best player at the top regardless of what it does to the rest of the class. If you're of the belief that Davis is a prospect of a similar caliber to the other candidates at No. 1 -- and this draft lacked a clear-cut No. 1 pick -- then this is probably a smart call.

Whether or not Davis occupies that space depends on the judge. One veteran talent evaluator (who doesn't work for the Pirates) floated him to CBS Sports as a dark horse for the No. 1 spot back in February. Their reasoning went like this: Davis is at least an adequate, big-armed catcher who seldom swings and misses and who frequently makes loud contact. That's a nice combination. 

Other evaluators have expressed concerns about the portability of Davis' strength-based swing, and about his outlook at the catcher position. He should be aided by the expected implementation of the automated ball-strike system in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, but it's at least theoretically possible that he has to move to another position over the coming years.

The Pirates, presumably, are closer to the first evaluation's read on Davis. If they're right on him -- and their other early picks -- they could look back on this draft as a turning point for the franchise.

As with last year, the Astros had their first- and second-round picks stripped by MLB as punishment for their sign-stealing misconduct. That left Houston with the lowest bonus pool in the league, limiting what it could do once it was finally allowed to make a pick. Getting Tyler Whitaker at 87 seems like a win, just not a big enough one to land the Astros on the right side of the ledger.

The Red Sox didn't pick until fourth, but they arguably walked away with the best prospect in the draft, in California prep shortstop Marcelo Mayer. Later, Boston took a chance on Jud Fabian, a Florida outfielder who was expected to be a top-five pick entering the spring, and who could've easily snuck into the back of the first round. Sometimes the board just smiles upon you.

There were three two-sport commitments who cracked our top-50: Will Taylor (Clemson), Bubba Chandler (Clemson), and Lonnie White Jr. (Penn State). Two of the three were drafted by the Pirates at slots that suggest they'll be signing. Taylor, who was viewed as a plausible top-10 candidate, will be the exception.

To paraphrase what we wrote in the Pirates section, if you pick third you should come away with a good-looking class. Truthfully, we're not as sweet on Detroit's class as others will be because of the wide error bars on some of the players at the top of their class, but the Tigers did appear to get good value by following up their selection of Jackson Jobe at No. 3 with Ty Madden at No. 32, Izaac Pacheco at No. 39, and Dylan Smith at No. 74. Pacheco is the only one of the four who didn't make our pre-draft top-50, and, even then, he was under consideration until late in the process. 

As we noted after the first night, this draft seemed likely to be dominated by high-school shortstops. Between Marcelo Mayer, Jordan Lawlar, Kahlil Watson, and Brady House, they made up 40 percent of our pre-draft top-10. Yet on Sunday, each slid down the board. Mayer, who was considered by us to be the top player in the class, went No. 4; Lawlar dropped to No. 6; House to No. 11; and Watson to No. 16. That shouldn't prove to be too costly -- the slot value of the 16th spot is still close to $4 million -- but it was unexpected. 

There were any other number of candidates for this slot, but we'll give the final nod to the Reds, who had five picks in the top-100. They made them count, catching a falling Matt McLain (who was expected to go in the top dozen), as well as grabbing outfielder Jay Allen, catcher Matheu Nelson, left-hander Andrew Abbott, and shortstop Jose Torres -- all of whom were top-50 candidates. 

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The #1 Overall Pick in the MLB Draft!

MLB Network 14 July, 2021 - 08:29pm

Henry Davis and the making of the Pirates' No. 1 draft pick, a trade-market thaw and more: Inside Baseball

The Athletic 14 July, 2021 - 08:29pm

Henry Davis and the making of the Pirates’ No. 1 draft pick, a trade-market thaw and more: Inside Baseball

Pittsburgh Pirates: Get to Know New Bucco Henry Davis

Rum Bunter 14 July, 2021 - 08:29pm

Louisville catcher Henry Davis (32) scores against Vanderbilt during the seventh inning of the 2019 NCAA Men's College World Series game at TD Ameritrade Park Friday, June 21, 2019, in Omaha, Neb. Vu Lou 062119 058

The Pittsburgh Pirates wound up taking Henry Davis with their first overall pick in this year’s draft. Davis is a right-handed catcher out of Louisville, who has great power. This pick was a great pick for the Pirates as it gives them a clear top catching prospect, as the only one performing in the minors has been Endy Rodriguez.

Davis has been ranked as the number two prospect in the entire draft by FanGraphs, only behind Marcelo Mayer, and would be ranked as the 39th best prospect in all of baseball if plugged into the top 100 right now. This would also make him the top Pirate prospect over Nick Gonzalez.

Davis has a 70 power rating from FanGraphs and he really showed it this past season. Last season with Louisville, Davis was able to improve his home run numbers from 2020. In 2020 Davis hit 3 home runs in the shortened season, but he hit 15 this year. That comes out to a rate of 14.3 HR/AB versus 12.27 HR/AB in 2021.

Even more impressive than his power numbers is his ability to get on base. In the past season, Davis had identical numbers to his 2020 season in regards to average and on-base percentage. His averages sat at .372 in 2020 and .370 this year, where his on-base percentages sat at .481 and .482.

These are amazing numbers for anyone let alone a catcher, as it shows that he is able to get on base pretty much every other at-bat that he has. His on-base percentage is greatly helped by his ability to read the ball, as he had 31 walks compared to only 24 strikeouts this year.

While Davis has an amazing bat, he does have one red flag that may come up more when he starts playing in the minors and that is his ability to stay behind the plate. Concern has been raised as to whether or not Davis will be able to stay as a catcher, due to his framing ability and fielding ranking of 45 by MLB Pipeline.

Although there are concerns about him staying behind the plate now, others are saying that if robot umps are brought along into the MLB, this will increase the chance that Davis stays behind the plate and ultimately increase his value.

While it is debatable at the moment whether or not Davis was the best player to take at number one overall, after seeing the approach the Pittsburgh Pirates took to the second day of the draft it is clear to see why drafting Davis was a key cog in their draft plans. Due to Davis being a player willing to sign under slot value, the Pirates were able to draft first-round talent with their following three draft picks which could make this draft a monumental one for the Pirates.

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Stumpf's Talking Point: What grade would you give the Pirates' draft?

DKPittsburghSports.com 14 July, 2021 - 08:29pm

1st-round catchers rarely pan out. The Pirates took Davis at No. 1 anyway

theScore 14 July, 2021 - 08:29pm

The Pittsburgh Pirates are, in many ways, taking an inspired approach to their rebuild under the club's relatively new management regime.

Entering the season, the Pirates had acquired five teenage prospects in trades under general manager Ben Cherington, the most in baseball during that period, according to Baseball Reference. Trading for high-upside teenagers is the kind of move that has netted teams talent like Fernando Tatis Jr., Jarred Kelenic, and Yordan Alvarez in recent years.

The Pirates have also focused on overhauling their player development system and philosophy, areas that failed them as former players like Gerrit Cole and Tyler Glasnow became drastically better after leaving Pittsburgh.

But then came Sunday night.

Drafting first overall is one of the rare opportunities for a club like the Pirates - whose budget is severely constrained by ownership - to land a future star talent. It was their first No. 1 selection since 2011 (Cole), but it seems the Pirates prioritized bonus-pool flexibility and a higher floor over a higher ceiling.

It wasn't a huge reach to select Louisville catcher Henry Davis - he ranked between second and fifth on most predraft boards - but the Pirates are taking a chance on a position with considerable downside and a player whose statistical performance doesn't match up to some of the top college bats in recent years.

It's rare to see a catcher drafted first overall. Davis became the seventh backstop selected with the top pick and 36th chosen in the top five.

Of all 160 first-round backstops who spent the majority of their careers at the position, only 10 accrued 20 WAR or better for their career. (Five players were drafted as catchers and exceeded 20 WAR at other positions.)

While the baseball draft owns a much higher bust rate than other major North American pro sports drafts, selecting a catcher is particularly unforgiving.

Among top 10 and top 50 overall selections, outfielders, shortstops, third basemen, and first basemen have all averaged a higher career WAR than catchers, according to Baseball Reference.

Moreover, Davis' college performance doesn't stack up against some other top-five selections who excelled at the position out of college.

Adley Rutschman, the Baltimore Orioles' No. 1 pick last summer, led Division I baseball in OPS in 2019.

Buster Posey, one of the most successful early first-round catchers of the draft era, led Division I in on-base percentage (.566) and slugging (.879) in 2008.

Yasmani Grandal was 15th in on-base percentage and 41st in slugging in 2010 before he went in the first round.

In 1994, Jason Varitek was coming off a Golden Spikes Award season in which he hit .404 with 22 home runs.

Davis? He ranked 45th in on-base percentage (.482) among qualifying Division I players this past season and 52nd in slugging percentage (.663). Those are solid numbers, and he'll perhaps be a good major-league hitter, but the bar is high for a top-five pick.

Cherington believes Davis possesses underlying traits that will allow him to excel as a hitter.

"Obviously, we dig deep on this stuff," Cherington said Sunday, according to MLB.com's Jake Crouse. "You can look at his performance against better pitching, against better velocity. It held up really well, no matter how you slice it up."

Perhaps Davis owns more untapped potential. He grades well in raw power and made plenty of contact at Louisville. He was more productive in his draft-eligible year than Matt Wieters, a catcher taken fifth overall who didn't rank in the top 100 in slugging in his final year at Georgia Tech and never lived up to his high selection over his 12-year MLB career. But Davis was not as dominant as any of the aforementioned college bats, and many evaluators thought five-tool high school shortstop Marcelo Mayer possessed the most upside in the class.

Shortstops selected in the top 50 are historically more productive than catchers in that same pick range. One reason is that they can eventually slide to less demanding but still important positions and carry plenty of defensive value. At catcher, there aren't many places to move as fallback options. Generally, if a backstop is moved off the position, it's to DH or first base, positions that carry greater run-production burdens in order to be an above-average player.

Of the 327 players drafted as catchers with top 50 picks, 137 have reached the majors. Of those to play in the big leagues, 113 spent at least part of the time at catcher, and only 97 were primary catchers.

While Craig Biggio and Josh Donaldson serve as examples of drafted catchers enjoying great careers at other positions, being selected as a backstop usually means that's where you're going to play a good part of the time.

And while the Pirates believe Davis can stay and improve at catcher, the position's importance could soon drop to an all-time low.

The looming threat of an electronic strike zone would eliminate value tied to pitch framing, which is one of a backstop's most prized skills. And even if the implementation is years away, the gap between the best and worst framing catchers is shrinking, reducing the skill's relative value. Throwing then might become more valued - and Davis' arm is well above average - but the running game has generally trended down in recent years.

Davis' size might also become a problem. There have been just 18 catchers in the draft era who stood 6-foot-2 or taller, played in more than half of their games at catcher, and registered 20-plus career WAR.

The Pirates could have added Mayer, a higher-upside teenager who would have lined up better with their expected competitive window alongside other young prospects they've accumulated in their system.

Alternatively, Pittsburgh could have taken the top arm in the draft, Vanderbilt ace Jack Leiter, and had him try to fill the void left by the departures of Cole, Glasnow, and Joe Musgrove in recent seasons. Moreover, the sons of major leaguers have quite a recent track record; in addition to the genetic advantages of having an MLB-playing father (in this case, two-time All-Star Al Leiter), there might be motor-learning advantages. Leiter's timetable could also place him quickly in the big leagues alongside another potential superstar, third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes, and star outfielder Bryan Reynolds. Pittsburgh didn't go this route.

Pirates fans are well aware of the costs of missing on premium draft picks.

Their club hasn't won a playoff series since 1979 and endured a stretch of 20 consecutive losing seasons from 1993-2012. The Pirates have used top-five picks on college position players such as catcher Tony Sanchez and third baseman Pedro Alvarez, both of whom failed to live up to their lofty draft status.

Draft picks fail for different reasons. Sometimes it's an evaluation issue. Sometimes it's development-based. Sometimes it's injury-related. But sometimes it's not properly weighing risk and opportunity. Chasing higher floors in the draft can mean missing out on franchise-changing talent. That will always be a debate in draft rooms, but elite teams have elite talent. There's a chance Henry becomes a star, but it's more likely the club passed on a player, and a position, that could have proved to be a keystone upon which to build.

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