Davis persevering, flashing power in Triple-A

May 20th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Jordan Bastian’s Cubs Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CHICAGO -- It was not all that long ago that was topping prospect rankings for the Cubs and looking like a power hitter in the making. Two years of injury setbacks threatened to derail his development, but the young outfielder is working to put all the setbacks behind him.

Over the past nine games, all Davis has done is launch seven home runs for Triple-A Iowa. That included a stretch of four games in a row with a home run, followed by a two-homer outburst on Saturday. The outfielder’s resurgence helped move him back to No. 22 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 list for Chicago after Davis slipped off the preseason list.

“A lot of it is perseverance,” Cubs assistant general manager Jared Banner said. “He's faced some adversity and he's battled back, and it's a real credit to him.”

A wide range of injury setbacks -- including a back surgery in 2022 -- hindered Davis’ progress after his breakout showing in ‘21, when the 2018 second-round Draft pick was the MVP of the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. Davis hit .180 in 53 games in ‘22, when he was Pipeline’s No. 1 Cubs prospect. He then hit .201 in 71 games in an injury-marred ‘23.

Through 23 games with Triple-A Iowa this season, the 24-year-old Davis has hit .270/.442/.667 with eight home runs, 21 RBIs, 15 walks and 20 strikeouts in 86 plate appearances. As a part of Chicago’s 40-man roster, Davis will remain as depth behind the deep group in MLB, but his showing is moving him closer to the radar.

“It's been a tough couple of years for Brennen,” Banner said. “He hasn't really been able to get in a rhythm. And this year, he's worked really hard and our staff's worked really hard to try to put him in a spot where he could be healthy and go out there and get reps every day.

“And with his talent, you put that together and good things happen. It's wonderful to see.”

Elsewhere around the Cubs' farm system:

Double-A Tennessee: C Moises Ballesteros

The 20-year-old Ballesteros recently entered Pipeline’s Top 100 list, checking in at No. 93 in baseball and No. 6 for the Cubs. He has hit .279/.359/.468 with five homers, six doubles and 23 RBIs, and has nearly as many walks (13) as strikeouts (16) in 34 games. Ballesteros has appeared in 14 games at catcher, another 16 as a designated hitter and three at first base.

“His strike-zone control [has stood out],” Banner said. “And when I say that, he draws walks and he doesn't strike out much. In addition to that, he hits the ball hard and keeps it off the ground. And that's a great recipe for success.”

High-A South Bend: LHP Drew Gray

Gray (No. 10 on the Cubs’ Top 30) has endured some command issues (22 walks in 21 1/3 innings), but has otherwise been solid this season. The 21-year-old lefty has a 3.38 ERA in seven starts, in which he has 30 strikeouts and just 14 hits (one homer) relinquished. Gray was a third-round pick by the Cubs in ‘21, but he missed ‘22 and part of ‘23 while coming back from Tommy John surgery.

“The stuff looks great,” Banner said. “Hitters have a really difficult time hitting him. He's racked up strikeouts his whole career. We're just going to push him to keep attacking the strike zone, because his stuff is that good.”

Single-A Myrtle Beach: RHP Ty Johnson

The 22-year-old Johnson is not on the Cubs’ Top 30 list, but he has been a steady presence for the rotation and bullpen for the Pelicans so far this year. In eight appearances (three starts), the 15th-round Draft pick (2023) out of Ball State has a 2.00 ERA with 38 strikeouts and nine walks in 27 innings. Johnson has allowed just 16 hits (one homer) and has picked up one save for Myrtle Beach.