The #1 overall pick came with an accompanying slot value of $8.4153MM, so Davis’ bonus lands a little less than $2MM under slot. Pittsburgh was surely aware of his willingness to sign for less than slot value before selecting him, with his bonus demands playing a role in their eventual choice.
The Pirates’ collection of picks came with a cumulative bonus pool of $14.394MM, the largest amount in this year’s class. Teams are permitted to exceed their bonus pool by up to five percent without forfeiting future draft choices, giving Pittsburgh around $15.11MM to allot to their draftees among the top ten rounds. With Davis signed, the Pirates still have around $8.61MM to spend on their crop of Day Two selections.
Davis, a 21-year-old catcher out of Louisville, catapulted himself into the mix for the No. 1 overall selection with a massive junior season. The Bedford, N.Y. native raked at a .370/.482/.663 clip and clubbed 15 home runs to go along with nine doubles — all while walking (31 times) more than he struck out (24).
Davis wasn’t the consensus or even the expected top pick in the draft, although the majority of pre-draft rankings listed him as a Top 5 overall talent. He ranked No. 2 at FanGraphs and at The Athletic; No. 4 at Baseball America and ESPN; and No. 5 at MLB.com, for instance. The Pirates’ decision to opt for Davis saved them a little bit of money with respect to the top overall draft slot, but any savings figure to be reallocated to an impressive crop of top-ranked talent they managed to secure at draft slots further down the board.
As Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper highlights, the Pirates’ first four selections — the fourth of which came at No. 72 overall — were all regarded as first-round talents in BA’s rankings. Left-hander Anthony Solometo, outfielder Lonnie White Jr. and right-hander/shortstop Bubba Chandler all ranked within BA’s top 32 players. Not every outlet was quite as bullish on that trio, but all were considered Top 75 talents; Chandler, in particular, was highly regarded. Specific rankings aside, it’s an impressive crop of talent to carry away from a single draft.
The Bucs will need to sign all four, of course, in order for that impressive group to pay dividends, but it appears they have a decent chance at doing so. Chandler, who was Clemson recruit as a quarterback, already told ESPN’s Tom VanHaaren this week that he intends to sign with the Pirates (Twitter link). Pittsburgh likely also saved some money with their picks in the fifth, sixth and ninth rounds by drafting college seniors, who frequently sign well below slot.
The selection of Davis immediately adds one of the game’s most highly regarded catching prospects to a Pirates system that second-year GM Ben Cherington and his front office are rapidly working to rebuild. Davis is lauded for his blend of hit tool, excellent power and plus or plus-plus arm strength. FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen calls him a “rare offensive talent for a backstop.” Both Longenhagen and The Athletic’s Keith Law acknowledge some elements of his defensive game that need polish, but Law opines Davis will “outwork everyone to become an above-average defender.” ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel calls him the draft’s “best college hitter by a good margin,” and virtually every report on Davis notes that he has more than enough bat to make it work at another position even if he doesn’t stick behind the dish.
Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was first to report the sides had reached an agreement.