Cubs prospect profile: Outfielder Brennen Davis
At nearly every level of professional baseball, age matters. When a player is young for a level and struggling, it can be used as an excuse or a reason to expect acclimation or improvement. If a similar player at the same level experiences an identical slump with two or three more years of experience, the tone of analysis changes to skepticism he’ll be able to put things together in time.
Cubs outfield prospect Brennen Davis falls into the most appealing bucket of age-related analysis. He is only 20 years old, younger than about 70 percent of the Class A Midwest League last season. Yet, he performed near the top of the league in an astounding number of statistical categories. For prospectors looking for the next five-tool outfielder to take a leap forward as he matures physically, Davis stands out.
The Cubs drafted Davis 62nd overall in the 2018 MLB First-Year Player Draft out of Basha High School in Arizona. At the time, his tools were raw, with a short swing and lanky body despite electric speed and a strong arm. Savvy analysts saw improvement in the near future, given his commitment to baseball ahead of the draft after a high school career as an exceptional basketball player.
The expectation was for Davis to spend multiple seasons at the rookie level in Arizona to hone his skills before heading to full-season ball. Davis beat that timetable after performing well in a small sample of Arizona League games, with a notable ability to blend a high-contact profile with emerging power. He stayed at extended spring training to start 2019 before the Cubs quickly promoted him to Class-A South Bend.
During each of the two seasons since he was drafted, his body has developed. Some scouts speculate he is roughly 15 pounds heavier than the estimated 175 pounds he was drafted at. While this may slow him down on the basepaths, it bodes well for his potential power development.
But Davis unfortunately ran into some injuries of his own last season. He took a pitch off his finger on July 17 and was placed on the seven-day minor league injured list. He returned less than two weeks later only to take another pitch off the same hand, effectively ending his 2019 regular season. He did, however, return for South Bend’s playoff run, slashing an impressive .310/.394/.414 in 29 at-bats.
During the abbreviated 2020 Spring Training, Davis received his first at-bats in a Chicago Cubs uniform, going 0-for-1 with a walk and 1 RBI.
Davis finished inside the Top 10 in batting average and isolated power, while finishing inside the Top 20 in on-base percentage in the Midwest League last season (minimum 200 PAs). Like Brailyn Marquez, he was younger than the majority of players with exceptional performances in one of the most pitcher-friendly leagues in the minors.
On the standard six-tool scouting profile — hit, game power, raw power, speed, fielding, arm — Davis’ speed, arm and fielding are already considered above average by scouts. Projecting his profile further out, there’s a chance Davis can have all six of these tools grade out as above average at the major-league level. This depends heavily on how his hit tool develops along with his power and whether one becomes the clear “plus” tool.
In 2020, there’s a chance Davis starts the year with South Bend before heading to High-A Myrtle Beach. He’ll run into pitchers with a refined ability to generate swing-and-miss at higher level, testing his already advanced ability to take breaking balls off the plate.
Heading into the 2020 season, he was ranked between 78th and 94th overall on some of the industry’s Top 100 lists. How Davis performs as he continues to have age on his side will determine how quickly his path forward in the organization comes into view.