In a move that should not come as a surprise to anyone, Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register reports that outfielder Brennen Davis will be assigned to Triple-A Iowa to start the season. The 22-year-old is the undisputed top prospect in the organization and he’s developed quickly since being chosen in the second round (No. 62 overall) of the 2018 draft, but the Cubs feel he still needs a little more experience in the minors before making the jump to MLB.
Despite what a lot of you are probably thinking, this isn’t a matter of service time manipulation. Davis is more than likely going to be a fixture in the middle of Chicago’s lineup for years to come, launching effortless bomskis into the bleachers with that compact stroke, but the simple fact of the matter is that he’s accumulated only 692 professional plate appearances in the last four seasons. Almost half of those have come at A-ball or lower.
To put that in perspective, Kris Bryant had 740 minor league PAs in two seasons prior to picking up another 33 as he “worked on his defense” for a couple more weeks in 2015. And that came after playing three years at the University of San Diego, where he led college baseball in home runs and won the Golden Spikes Award as the top college player in the country.
Davis was drafted straight out of high school, where he didn’t focus on baseball due to starring on the basketball team as well. After a brief run at the rookie level following his selection, injuries limited his playing time in what should have been his first full pro season in 2019. The 2020 season was taken away entirely by the pandemic, though Davis got in plenty of work at the Cubs’ alternate site.
He shot up to Triple-A last year after winning Futures Game MVP honors on the strength of two dingers, which really put him on the map. That performance, along with homering in his first two at-bats for Iowa, set the bar ridiculously high and had many believing Davis was more than ready for the highest level. To be fair, he could almost certainly hold his own in MLB.
Thing is, the Cubs don’t want him to merely hold his own. They’re also dealing with a “muddy” outfield situation in Chicago that would only get muddier if Davis was called up. If he continues to show out against Triple-A pitching in the first half, particularly if he can cut down the strikeouts, Davis will prove he’s ready and he’ll be promoted.
But I’d bet that if you put truth serum in Jed Hoyer and asked him what the team would prefer, the answer would be for Davis to spend the whole season in Iowa. They want him to face a little adversity early and overcome it in the middle or latter part of the season by improving his swing-and-miss (which was better in Iowa than at Tennessee) while maintaining that high OBP.
Barring a change of heart, the Cubs don’t seem to want to make the difficult — but probably necessary — move to clear space on the roster and in the outfield by moving on from Jason Heyward. That isn’t likely to change by midseason and Davis’s promotion would necessitate someone else’s departure, so don’t be surprised if we’re waiting until September to see the burgeoning superstar.