Injury updates and timelines for a quartet of Cubs prospects
‘Tis the season for prospect updates, though most of those come in the form of updated rankings league-wide.
From a Cubs’ perspective, they’re not worried about rankings so much as getting some of their top young players back on the field healthy.
A quartet of prospects — Brennen Davis, Alexander Canario, Miguel Amaya, Ed Howard — carried injury questions into the new year. Here are updates on all four players:
Ranked by some — including Marquee Sports Network’s Lance Brozdowski — as the Cubs’ No. 1 prospect, Davis endured a nightmare 2022 season.
After a breakout year in 2021, the young outfielder began the season at Triple-A Iowa and was primed to make his MLB debut at some point in the summer. But a back injury forced him out of action in May and he wasn’t able to return until the final few weeks of the minor league season.
The Cubs sent Davis to the Arizona Fall League to get more at-bats but he dealt with some soreness, ultimately leading the team to take a cautious approach and shut him down.
“It made no sense to push through something that was not anything wrong but just after what I’d been through and where I was at in my season, I think it’s better to shut it down and get ready for the 2023 season,” Davis said at Cubs Convention earlier this month.
Davis is now “100% and ready to roll” and with a full offseason to regain his strength after the three-month layoff, he is considered a full go for 2023.
“We think [the back issues] are behind him,” Jed Hoyer said. “Hopefully the winter allowed him to get really strong again. I think that was hard for him. When he came back later on in the season, he wasn’t strong enough and we talked about that.
“It was good to see pitching but I don’t think he was strong enough to compete at his normal level. So hopefully he can get to that level this winter.”
The 23-year-old was added to the Cubs’ 40-man roster this winter and can play all three outfield spots. The big-league outfield is currently crowded with Ian Happ, Seiya Suzuki and Cody Bellinger, but Davis could be one call away in Iowa if an injury strikes or the Cubs need more depth.
The slugging outfield prospect is recovering from two surgeries for a pair of injuries he suffered playing in the Dominican Winter League this offseason. Canario underwent surgery in November on his left shoulder and the left ankle that he injured.
Canario is out of sling for his left shoulder, but remains in a walking boot. He is confident that he will play this season, following up on a remarkable 2022 season where he slugged 37 home runs across High-A, Double-A and Triple-A.
“It was hard to watch that injury,” Cubs vice president of player development Jared Banner said in an interview with Marquee Sports Network. “He was in a lot of pain. He’s gonna be out a little while. Don’t expect to see him at the beginning of the season.
“When he does return, I know he’ll be ready. He’s been working extremely hard at his rehab and he’s a confident guy. He’s a really talented guy. We expect the sky to still be the limit.”
It’s unknown when Canario will be able to get back on the field, but a best case scenario would be a return to full health by sometime this summer. The 22-year-old played 20 games in Triple-A Iowa last season and like Davis, is on the Cubs’ 40-man roster.
It’s been a tough few years for the Cubs’ top catching prospect. Between the pandemic and a pair of injuries (first Tommy John surgery for his elbow and then a foot fracture late last season), Amaya has only been able to play in 63 minor league games since 2019.
But the Cubs expect him to be ready to go come Spring Training and he actually could be playing competitive games in the World Baseball Classic for Team Panama.
Amaya turns 24 in March and has been on the Cubs’ 40-man roster for the past couple of years but he has yet to play above the Double-A level.
The Cubs are set at catcher in Chicago with the veteran duo of Yan Gomes and Tucker Barnhart but Amaya could be part of the long-term catching picture and a healthy 2023 season would be huge for his development.
The local product (Mount Carmel High School) finally got his in-person introduction to Cubs fans at the Convention earlier this month. He was the organization’s 1st-round pick in 2020 and the pandemic disrupted both his senior season in high school and his first year of pro ball (the minor league season was canceled in 2020).
Howard played for Class-A Myrtle Beach in 2021 and showed some strides in Advanced Class-A South Bend last year before a devastating hip injury in May.
He required surgery and still isn’t fully recovered. He started running on AlterG running (an anti-gravity treadmill) and recently began hitting and taking grounders on the field. He expects to be running on land in the near future, though his timetable for a return to action is unclear.
“I think I’ll be playing this next season,” Howard said. “I can’t put a date on it. It’s God’s timing but when I come back, I come back.”
He turns 21 on Saturday and has tried to make the most out of his time on the shelf by learning about himself and the game. When he returns, he’s not worried about feeling pressure to show others what he can do.
“Who am I proving it to, really?” Howard asked. “I’m just proving it to myself. I’m ready to get back out there and play. That’s what I love to do. I’ve been doing it since I was 7. It’s a love. It’s what I do.”