Pirates pick Davis at No. 1; Leiter goes to Rangers

The Pittsburgh Pirates have selected Louisville catcher Henry Davis, regarded as the best collegiate hitter, with the first pick in baseball’s amateur draft.

In a draft without a clear-cut top prospect, it remained unclear who the Pirates would go with until the selection was announced.

Drafting second was the Texas Rangers, who selected Vanderbilt right-hander Jack Leiter, son of former major leaguer Al Leiter.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced the first pick Sunday from Denver’s Bellco Theater. Major League Baseball moved the draft from its longstanding June slot to July’s All-Star weekend in an effort to better showcase its future stars.

Davis has big power and an even bigger arm, throwing out 46% of would-be basestealers to become a finalist for the Buster Posey Award as college baseball’s best defensive catcher.

He batted .370 and led the Cardinals with 15 homers, and his .482 on-base percentage was best in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

After the league slimmed the draft from 40 rounds to five last year in response to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s event will go 20 rounds spread over three days.

The draft opened Sunday night with the first 36 selections on tap. Fans were allowed to watch the event in person for the first time, and a smattering of onlookers booed loudly when Manfred took the stage. Previous drafts were held at MLB Network’s studio in Secaucus, New Jersey, which only had room for media and small groups of friends and family.

The Pirates picked first overall for the first time since taking Gerrit Cole in 2011, by far the most successful of their four previous top selections. Their other top picks were infielder Jeff King (1986) and right-handers Kris Benson (1996) and Bryan Bullington (2002).

The first pick in the draft has a slot value of $8,415,300.

Pittsburgh’s total pool for the draft is $14,394,000, the highest in the draft. The Astros, who lost their first- and second-round picks as a penalty for the 2017 and ’18 sign-stealing scandal, have the smallest pool at $2,940,600.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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