Even as the Cubs organization – as a whole – has rocketed up league-wide farm system rankings (7th according to BP, middle of the pack for Keith Law and for BA, all with comments on how it could go much higher from here), there has been consensus on the overall lack of *current* top-100 prospects.
And by now, you know why: The Cubs have a TON of high-upside prospects in the system – more than they’ve had since the heyday of The Rebuild – but they’re all very far away from actually debuting in MLB, and thus are (fairly) considered higher-risk prospects. Obviously, that’s a little disappointing – we all want our cookies before dinner – but the fact that the Cubs have been able to land top-half and even top-ten overall system rankings based almost entirely on their lower-level prospects speaks to how deep and exciting that group of players really is.
In any case, we have a new set of top-100 rankings to peruse today, this time from ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel. Unfortunately, McDaniel’s top-1oo list is as low on Cubs prospects as any other out there, with only Brennen Davis making the cut at 28th (tied for his lowest/worst ranking so far).
28. Brennen Davis, CF, Chicago Cubs
Age: 22 | Bats: Right | Throws: Right
Type: Long-limbed elite physical skills with good feel
Davis has premium physical skills with premium makeup and has outperformed all pre-draft expectations, but finally ran into some resistance last spring with a ballooning strikeout rate at Double-A. Davis was a multisport standout in high school who was late to being a full-time baseball player. He’s a rangy 6-foot-4 with plus speed, a plus arm, good feel for defending in center field, along with plus raw power.
The strikeout rate issue is now the manifestation of concerns some had in high school that raw talent and ability to adjust had overcome. Having longer arms makes covering the whole plate more difficult and Davis may be fitting into a type — the rangy outfielder with below-average contact rate who is above average at everything else. If that’s what he is — say, .245 with some walks and 20-25 homers and fringe-to-average center-field defense — that’s an above-average everyday player who made the choice to lean into power rather than contact, when forced to pick one.
When Keith Law ranked Davis down at 28th a couple weeks ago, he also mentioned the power/OBP skill as Davis’ updated calling card. And the collection of opinions from across the industry seems to agree that Davis began moving away from the contact-successful, center field bat that hit .298 in rookie ball, .305 at A-Ball, and .321 at High-A from 2018-2021 and towards the potential future right fielder who hit .252 at Double-A and .268 at Triple-A last season. Those latter performances were still paired with well-above average overall offensive contributions (135 wRC+ at Double-A and 150 wRC+ in Triple-A), and he was among the youngest players in both leagues, but that’s the new tape.
Davis, 22, is still young, is still a former multi-sport athlete, and only just got his first taste of higher-level ball last season. He’ll begin 2022 at Triple-A, where he’s played just 15 games so far, and by mid-season, we could have an entirely different take on how much contact we expect him to make in MLB. And, yes, if he keeps that strikeout rate under control while continuing to produce at the plate, a midseason call-up to the Cubs is very much in play.
The majority of the Cubs next wave is very far away from contributing directly in the big leagues, but the Cubs best prospect is knocking on the door.
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