A Pair of Pirates First Round Picks Leading the Way

BRADENTON, Fla. – The Pittsburgh Pirates have conducted two drafts under General Manager Ben Cherington.

In those drafts, they’ve taken a college hitter with both of their first round picks. Not just a college hitter in each case, but a college hitter with an exceptional work ethic.

One of the biggest praises that I’ve heard consistently about 2020 first rounder Nick Gonzales is that he’s always the first person to arrive at the field, and the last person to leave. Their 2021 first rounder, Henry Davis, has already stepped up as a leader for the prep players in his class.

The leadership from both first rounders is welcome by the Pirates, but wasn’t specifically targeted in that round.

“I think it’s something that we value, but it’s not something that we want to force on anybody because of draft status or position,” said Pirates’ farm director John Baker. “Within the social hierarchy, things will work themselves out amongst the players and those leaders will emerge.”

That’s to say that Davis and Gonzales aren’t the de facto leaders just because they’re first rounders. That said, it doesn’t hurt that each player has emerged with leadership abilities. I covered those abilities in Davis two weeks ago.

Henry Davis is Already Acting Like a Leader on Day One of Spring Training

“I think that Henry is naturally gifted and attuned to doing whatever it takes to improve,” said Baker. “It makes it easy for us by him pulling in younger, impressionable players and people and saying this is how we’re going to do it to get better.”

Davis has even stepped up as an off-field leader for young prep players Bubba Chandler and Anthony Solometo, to the point where he makes sure they’re adhering to a proper bedtime to get enough sleep.

“I could use Henry sometimes when I get down a rabbit hole or when I’m reading my book too late, and I look around and it’s 1:30 in the morning,” joked Baker. “I could use a Henry Davis alarm clock to yell at me to go to bed because I’ve got to get up early.”

Gonzales has a more quiet personality, and most of his leadership is by example with his work ethic on the field.

“Nick’s willingness to challenge himself in practice sets the example,” said Baker. “The players who were drafted in the same draft class as him, or players who had been there in the past, they look out and see this guy who had the year he had last year ask for more challenge, ask for it to be more difficult, ask to be pushed, and then go out and grind it out in practice like that. It sets a great example for the rest of the organization.”

Gonzales posted a .950 OPS in High-A last year, followed by a 1.032 OPS in 87 plate appearances in the Arizona Fall League. He’s primarily played second base in his pro career, and is regarded as the top option for second base of the future in Pittsburgh. The Pirates have been giving him work at shortstop so far this spring.

Davis and Gonzales are both key pieces to the future, with the hope that they make up two starting positions up the middle in Pittsburgh. Having a strong work ethic and strong leadership skills certainly doesn’t hurt, even if these two might not be the leaders on that future team.


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Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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