Brennen Davis and Christopher Morel Explode For Eight Hits at Double-A, Including a Brennen Bomb

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Brennen Davis and Christopher Morel Explode For Eight Hits at Double-A, Including a Brennen Bomb

Chicago Cubs

Cubs top prospect Brennen Davis and also-quite-good prospect Christopher Morel led the Double-A Tennessee Smokies to a 13-7 win on Thursday night, each putting together a performance that would be in the running for the best single offensive game by a Cubs minor leaguer this year.

Both players collected four hits and a walk, with Brennen getting the edge in total bases thanks to a second inning home run (his first at the level).

The two hitters entered the night batting a combined .179 at Double-A, with Davis in particular mired in a nasty 3-for-26 (with 15 strikeouts) slump. And with just one big game, thanks to the small sample size of playing in just his 13th game with the Smokies, Davis saw his OPS jump from a paltry .577 to a team-leading .775. Let’s also consider the league context, as the average Double-A South hitter posts a .706 OPS, and the average pitcher is 24.8 years old. Davis won’t turn 22 until November.

Whether by design or coincidence, I found it noteworthy that all of Davis’ hits were to left field. The outfielder, always one to embrace an all-fields approach, has been pulling the ball less than ever in 2021. This is a great hitting philosophy, particularly for a kid with rare opposite field power, but perhaps a bit much to take on while also handling more advanced surroundings. For one night, I liked Davis simplifying things, even twice (third and sixth innings) pulling balls on the outside corner for line drive singles.

Both hitters also made fantastic swing decisions last night, an improvement that has been true for Morel more and more this season. If we combine Morel’s 2018 and 2019 seasons, he walked 22 times in 127 games. Last night Morel notched his 18th walk of the season, 16 of which have come since May 26. This is an absolutely massive adjustment that he’s been able to implement on the fly, and while it hadn’t been accompanied with great overall offensive results yet, perhaps the tide will begin to turn after a two-double, two-single night.

One of those singles was also nearly an opposite field home run, with some questionable baserunning ahead of him getting Morel caught between first and second base in a rundown. He would then find himself down 0-2 in the next three plate appearances but never recorded an out: double into the left field corner, seven-pitch walk and an infield single (I had him timed at 4.23 seconds, which would make him a 55/60 runner). I also have in my notes that Morel was thrown a breaking ball in 12 of the 26 pitches he saw last night, so give the kid credit for dealing with a true upper-level gameplan.

And he flashed the glove:

Both these guys spent last season at the Alternate Training Site in South Bend, each getting tons of at-bats against pitchers with Major League caliber stuff. The Cubs front office was happy that both struggled a bit there, away from the bright lights of official stat sheets, and were confident that the advancement they showed over those three months in Indiana would carry over to 2021. We’re now able to see that development happen in real time, and it’s beautiful to see two of the higher-ceilinged offensive players show that kind of refinement.

Last night was the kind of evening that helps change the narrative of where a season is falling on the success vs. struggle spectrum. I’m back to optimism, baby.

Quickly, elsewhere on the farm:

  • Ben Leeper is now four appearances and 5.2 innings into his Triple-A career. Still 0 hits allowed (versus 9 strikeouts). He was 94-97 with the fastball and 88-90 with his great slider on the St. Paul radar gun. More on him next week.
  • Not great starts from the trio of Cam Sanders, Max Bain, D.J. Herz on a highly-anticipated night. Sanders was completely out of sorts with fastball command, and from what I saw, mostly missing gloveside. Bain had a gem going after four innings, but ran into some hard contact in his final inning of work as Cedar Rapids barreled up his hard stuff (I always come away wanting more curveballs/changeups). Herz got tons of swing and miss on his fastball, which is good after his last bad outing, but bad BABIP luck and iffy command (missing arm side) made it pretty inefficient overall.
  • Delvin Zinn is now 25-for-25 on the basepaths this season. How cool.
  • Yonathan Perlaza, a former bonus baby, is having a quiet mini-breakout over the last few weeks in South Bend. After three home runs in his last four games, Perlaza’s last 24 games look like this: .306/.404/.541. Small, strong, compact switch-hitter that carries more thump in his bat (from the left side) than you’d expect.
  • Ed Howard came off the IL yesterday, logging a strikeout and fielder’s choice before being pulled after four innings (which I assume is their precautionary way of working him back in). Howard did make a nice tag following a D.J. Herz pick-off.

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Author: Bryan Smith

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