In his latest mock draft for Baseball America, draft writer Carlos Collazo mocked Louisville catcher Henry Davis to the Orioles with the No. 5 pick.
Wait, a catcher? Didn’t the Orioles just take a catcher with the top overall pick in 2019?
“It’s funny, when I was putting that together and Henry Davis was the name that kind of made sense with that pick, I was like, ‘You know what? It’d be really nice if Henry Davis was either off the board here or there was another player that made more sense,'” Collazo said on Glenn Clark Radio May 27. “Because … it is weird to see a catcher mocked to a team with their first pick in the top five when you just took Adley Rutschman two years ago.”
But there are plenty of reasons Davis would fit in Baltimore, according to Collazo. Davis is the top college bat in the class, and that bat should profile well at any position. He’s also a good athlete for a catcher and possesses elite arm strength, meaning he should be able to play another position if he’s blocked at catcher by a superior defender.
Plus, the MLB Draft isn’t like the drafts in the NFL and NBA, where roster needs are more of a consideration for decision makers. Because so much can happen between the baseball draft and a prospect’s big-league debut, teams tend to take the best player available regardless of position.
“If you really think [Davis is] clearly the best bat available at that spot — and he very well could be — then you just take him and you sort out the positional balance in your system later,” Collazo said. “You’ll figure that out later. If you need to trade him, you can trade him and get value. But at the end of the day, you want to take the best talent, and it’s very possible that Henry Davis could be the best talent on the board there.”
Though Louisville didn’t make the NCAA Tournament, Davis hit .370/.482/.663 with 15 home runs for the Cardinals this spring. He struck out just 24 times and walked 31 times. Collazo explained that Davis has “innate bat-to-ball skills,” rarely swinging and missing and hardly ever expanding the strike zone. The catcher’s strength-based swing packs a serious punch, too:
Baltimore has gone with college hitters the past two drafts under GM Mike Elias, picking Rutschman in 2019 and Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad No. 2 overall last year. Davis fits that mold, as do Boston College outfielder Sal Frelick and UCLA shortstop Matt McLain. But Davis is so good he might not even get to No. 5; in fact, it’s possible he might not even get past the Pittsburgh Pirates at No. 1.
“I think this year’s draft class is a little unique or different from previous draft classes where there really aren’t a lot of college hitters you can have a lot of confidence in,” Collazo said. “Henry Davis has certainly become the top college hitter in the class. And [the Orioles may prefer] to take a bat rather than an arm in the top five, whether that’s because they’re just a little bit worried about the attrition rate of pitchers in the top five or just generally that’s what the people in charge have done in recent years.”
But where would the Orioles play Davis with Rutschman being the club’s catcher of the future? Collazo said he’s heard a potential landing for Davis being right field, where his athleticism and arm strength would profile well. Plus, he wouldn’t get beat up behind the plate and could play every day.
Typically, though, teams will keep prospects on a lofty perch on the defensive spectrum for as long as possible before sliding them down.
“The offensive bar you have to clear is not very high [at catcher], so if you can get a player who has one of the best hit tools and power in the draft class and put him at catcher, that’s a very valuable piece,” Collazo said. “Now obviously the Adley Rutschman situation complicates things a little bit, but I do think he can catch and I do think he probably has the tools and athleticism to play another position if you need him to at some point down the line.”
For more from Collazo, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Taris Smith/Louisville Athletics