The Cubs have four prospects who are eerily similar. They all play different positions, have different backgrounds, and could be memorable or wash out. Baseball tends to be unforgiving like that. The last of the four to get a discussion treatment from me is Brennen Davis. More so than the others, I have no actual expectations for Davis.
It isn't that he hasn't performed. Left in extended spring training in April, he was among the players called up when the eventual Midwest League champions in South Bend put their entire starting outfield on the Injured List over four days in the first half of the season. Quite literally, when Davis got the call-up, my first hope was that he wouldn't get figuratively submerged by the competition. I needn't have worried.
Davis was over two years younger than the average pitcher he faced. Over 50 games and roughly 200 trips to the plate, his OPS was .907. Some will try to explain what his power or speed are on the 20/80 scale. Some might try to break down his swing. I'll merely toss in that if a freshman is hitting at a .907 OPS against teams full of juniors and seniors, he's probably better than the league. In a baseball world that still has eight levels of minor leagues, Davis is better than all but three of them. He turned 20 last month.
Among the reasons I so enjoy the minor leagues is that every April, players are trying to prove themselves against tougher competition. In Davis' case, 2020 will be about proving himself against Carolina League pitching. That Pelicans squad ought to be a treat to follow. Davis, fellow 2018 prep selection Cole Roederer, and DJ Artis will give the Birds three legitimate center field candidates. Andy Weber will assist up-the middle on the infield. Christopher Morel figures to play third. If back to healthy, Chase Strumpf may be the team's best hitter at second base. The pitching staff should be loaded.
The look here, though, is at Davis. I have no idea how he'll do against the developing pitching of the Braves, Brewers, Nationals, Red Sox, and others. That's exactly how I'll look at it, though, every game. Who seems to be better? Davis? Or the rest of the league?
Davis might have inherited some of his athletic talents, as his mom was a track star at the University of Washington. Everything I've seen from Davis is that he's a well-grounded young man who remembers where he came from. He bought cleats for his alma mater, Basha High School in Arizona. Before he made it big.
Huge thank you to Basha Baseball Alumni and Chicago Cubs Organiztional Player of the Year Brennen Davis for the team cleats! We are so grateful and very proud of all you’ve accomplished! @cubs @BrennenDavis__ pic.twitter.com/EZDXzFlAzU— Basha Baseball (@BashaBaseball) October 29, 2019
My crystallized memory of Davis' first full-season campaign was a night in mid-July. In a game against the Astros’ Midwest League affiliate, Davis doubled up the right-center field gap, short-hopping the wall. My immediate thought was that if a 19-year-old can hit a ball with that sort of authority, give him a few years. As power is often a later-developing trait, that could eventually become a homer. As it turned out, I only needed to wait innings for the power to develop; not years. He hit an opposite-field walk-off homer in the ninth.
As noted before, I'm not going to represent like I know how Davis will do against tougher pitching. With the wonders of MiLB.tv and the Tune-In app, I'll be defaulting regularly to the Myrtle Beach broadcasts. Davis, Roederer, Weber, and a few others are all worth tuning in for. You can be as upset as you want over the off-season so far. I'm ecstatic I get more games where Davis gets to display his development come April. Will his climb up the system ladder continue? Games and production updates begin in a bit over three months.