The point of bringing Brennen Davis in for big-league camp was to give him the chance to work alongside Gold Glovers, Silver Sluggers and World Series champions.
“And watch how they work and their routines,” Cubs manager David Ross said, “and you can learn a lot from that.”
Fresh out of a “B” game against the Diamondbacks on Saturday, Davis was already talking about repeating what the outgoing Cubs core had done five years ago.
“I’m just here to help Chicago win a championship when it’s my time,” said Davis, the Cubs’ No. 1 outfield prospect.
The Cubs assigned Davis and 15 other non-roster invitees to minor league camp this week, in the first round of spring training cuts (22 in all). But with Kris Bryant, Javier Báez and Anthony Rizzo all in contract years, and the club in transition, the buzz around Davis is already palpable. If he keeps this up, he could become the face of the Cubs’ next young hitting core. It could even be a championship core.
“I think he’s going to be an incredible baseball player,” Cubs outfielder Ian Happ said. “I really am impressed by his wanting to be around and ask questions. Really attentive.”
Davis, 21, hasn’t played above Single-A ball. So, a call-up isn’t imminent. The pandemic did, however, send his development plan off course. And so far, that doesn’t seem to be a bad thing.
The last time Davis played competitively – he spent the 2020 season at the alternate site, with the minor league season canceled – he helped lead the South Bend Cubs to a Midwest League Championship. The Cubs named Davis their Minor League player of the year, despite him missing time for multiple finger injuries.
“The 2018 draft class was stacked,” Davis said. “We have a bunch of guys who can get the job done and just moving forward with those guys, guys who know how to win, it’s what a winning organization needs – you need guys who can win. There’s always going to be those super stars, but ultimately baseball’s stats, and it’s getting the job done, being consistent, and I think we have a lot of players like that.”
At the alternate site, Davis “got his first taste of failure,” Cubs vice president of player development Matt Dorey said on the Cubs Talk Podcast this winter. But the way Davis responded stood out.
The quality of pitching was a jump from what Davis had seen in Single-A. Alternate site pitchers included Adbert Alzolay, who is in the mix this spring for a rotation or swing-man spot. Last season, Alzolay was working on a new strikeout pitch, his slider.
“At the beginning, yes, I was flipping sliders and curve balls to him,” Alzolay said. “But at the end, he made a good adjustment. He got me like three times with my fastball, opposite way, then off the wall and stuff like that.
“Because that’s what he can do.”
Gordon Wittenmyer contributed to the reporting of this story from Mesa, Arizona.