Former 2-sport standout could be Cubs' next star

Dynamic outfielder Davis on club's 60-man player pool

July 7th, 2020

A two-sport star earlier in his Basha High (Chandler, Ariz.) career, Brennen Davis committed solely to baseball as a senior in 2018 but was slowed by a hamstring injury. He was one of the best hitters in the pitcher-friendly low Class A Midwest League during his first full pro season in 2019, though multiple injuries to his right index finger limited him to just 50 games.

Thus Davis' emergence as one of the most exciting young players in baseball got pushed back to 2020 -- only to see the coronavirus shut down the entire Minor League season. So now his breakout will have to wait until 2021 at the earliest, but rest assured, it's coming.

The 20-year-old Davis, who signed for $1.1 million as a supplemental second-round pick two years ago, has the best all-around tools in the Cubs' system and some of the best in the entire Minors. He's a 6-foot-4, 205-pounder with plenty of strength, leverage and bat speed, not to mention plus speed, solid arm strength and the chance to become a quality center fielder.

Chicago had planned on Davis, the Cubs' No. 2 prospect and No. 78 overall, beginning this season by playing every day in center at high Class A Myrtle Beach, with the chance for a promotion to Double-A Tennessee if all went well. While that became an impossibility, he'll get an opportunity to develop as part of the Cubs' 60-man player pool. It's unlikely that he'll be summoned to Wrigley Field but will get regular at-bats against quality competition.

"The most important thing is to get him back in a routine," said Cubs farm director Matt Dorey, who was the team's scouting director when it selected Davis 62nd overall in 2018. "Early on in development, we try to build a routine they can lean on for the rest of their careers, not just on the field.

"We want him to see as much live pitching as possible. Almost all of the pitchers we'll have up there are potential Major League depth. Even if it's standing in on pitches during bullpens, then live batting practice and scrimmages, he's going to get the opportunity to stand in versus some very polished professional pitchers, learn to manage at-bats, deal with failure, all normal things he'd get to experience in a normal Minor League season."

Repetitions against advanced pitching is what Davis needs most at this point in his career. He divided his time between baseball and basketball in high school -- he helped Basha win Arizona's state 6-A hoops championship in 2017 and was named region defensive player of the year -- and has just 276 plate appearances in parts of two pro seasons.

Despite his relative lack of experience, Davis has thrived in pro ball. He batted .305/.381/.525 with eight homers in 50 games while winning Cubs Minor League player of the year honors a year ago.

"I think what really helped me was developing a routine and developing mental cues that would help me stick to my approach," Davis said. "I knew I had what it took to compete in the box every day, but I just had to make sure I was doing what I needed to to be right.

"The adjustment to pro ball pitching was tough, let me tell you. My first year in the [Arizona League], I remember I was talking to a buddy back home and I was like, Dude, I just learned what a two-seam does. I know it sounds stupid, but I didn't really play club ball a ton. So just learning what stuff does and where you need to contact pitches and all the intricacies that go about in baseball, it's just a big learning curve but I think I'm on the right path."

Davis is not nearly as raw as the typical two-sport athlete, displaying impressive bat-to-ball skills for a 6-foot-4 guy whose long arms add some length to his right-handed swing. He has shown the aptitude to make adjustments to his stroke, control the strike zone and use the entire field. He also has impressed with his work ethic and has added about 35 pounds since he signed, boosting him to 208.

Davis said he considers himself fortunate to live in Arizona, where he had access to facilities where he could hit and lift weights while MLB was shut down. With a number of pro players also in the area, he had the opportunity for some live batting practices in well. Cubs pitching prospect Tyson Miller tweeted video of Davis homering off Cory Abbott, the organization's 2019 Minor League pitcher of the year.

After spending last season at South Bend, Davis hoped he had seen the last of Four Winds Field. But when the Cubs announced plans to base their taxi squad there and make him part of it, he said he was stoked to return. He has plenty he wants to work on as baseball resumes.

"Pitch recognition, definitely," he said. "Routes in the outfield can always be cleaned up, just being the best outfielder I can be. Baserunning, being more aggressive and trusting my instincts. Just continuing to solidify my swing mechanics and not be afraid to take chances. I think I get a little hesitant sometimes and sometimes I just need to let it fly."

Davis has come a long way in a short time and should continue to get better with more experience. His breakout season may come a little later than initially hoped, but he has the potential to become the best outfield prospect developed by the Cubs since Rafael Palmeiro. If everything comes together, he could become the second 30-30 player in club history after Sammy Sosa.