Top Chicago Cubs Prospect Brennen Davis is Ready For His Unique 2020 Development

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Top Chicago Cubs Prospect Brennen Davis is Ready For His Unique 2020 Development

Chicago Cubs

There was this line that Brennen Davis said to me on Friday, as we talked on the phone after he’d arrived in the Midwest, that sat with me all weekend.

“I use my instincts really well and that helps me succeed.”

When I boil down why I believe Davis is the organization’s best prospect, the system’s best hope for a future All-Star, maybe it really is as simple as that. The physical gifts are there of course, but it’s the ability to transfer those gifts to output – while undergoing large scale changes to his body composition and swing mechanics – that is the sign of something special.

Davis is now headed to a unique challenge, one that the Cubs are still figuring out, as a member of the reserve squad in South Bend. Whereas he’ll be playing alongside a lot of depth options for the big league club, the focus for Davis is clearly a continuation of his development.

In fact, for Davis, the development in South Bend this year will get pretty specific: “I’ll take my game at-bats against really good pitching, some of whom have been there or are knocking at the door,” he said. “It’s about recognizing pitches, recognizing spin, having a disciplined approach against guys that aren’t throwers but can pitch.”

It was clear throughout our conversation that plate approach was a real focus of Brennen’s this offseason (and quarantine). After drawing 16 walks in his first month in South Bend last year, Davis would walk just twice in his final 24 regular season games. It’s a split that clearly bothered him (though, heck, he still managed a .903 OPS over that time).

“I think of myself as having pretty good strike zone awareness, but then you chase a pitch three balls off the plate,” Davis said. “I tried to do too much, which comes with maturity and knowing what I shouldn’t chase. Realizing that alone was a big step for me.”

The 20-year-old outfielder worked during quarantine to develop cues for when he’s out of whack. Davis had access to a batting cage as well as a venue to lift weights. And shortly before getting the call to the 60-man roster, Davis more famously got some live BP work against some of the Cubs better pitching prospects, Kohl Franklin and Cory Abbott:

The home run off Abbott certainly shows some of the offseason development at work. You see Davis clearly has gained more muscle, though he says he’s not up much weight as he continues to balance maintaining his agility. You also see a more comfortable swing to left field than Davis showed when I saw him last year. My memories of watching him succeed in 2019 are more centered on the balls he drilled to right and right-center, which is not bad in isolation, but you do want him to develop his pull-side power.

“I feel like I have to work more on my swing mechanics pulling the ball and getting true flight than I do going the other way and going with the pitch,” Davis said.

It’s exciting to know that Davis is so good at self-evaluation, but not so much that it precludes him from taking to coaching. His Arizona residence usually affords him the ability to connect with the organization – “normal times I’m in the [Cubs Mesa] complex almost everyday” – in a way that he believes gives him a leg up on his peers. While it’s been difficult to have that closed off, the South Bend experience will allow the Cubs to again work closely with a prized prospect. Both sides are determined to make sure that 2020 doesn’t go down as a lost season.

“The whole mental side of [quarantine] was tough, but a development year is a development year.”

Author: Bryan Smith

Bryan Smith is a Minor League Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @cubprospects.