Any fan whose team is entering a rebuilding process has reasons to be upset, but maybe none more so than Chicago Cubs fans. After waiting over a century for a World Series title, the 2016 Cubs delivered. They built an excellent and lovable core. Power bats on the corners with Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. Exciting middle infielders like Javier Baez. Power arms like Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester leading the rotation. The Cubs had everything going for them. But every window of contention must fade, and now five years later, none of those pieces are on the team. But the Cubs have some exciting young talent on the way, especially in the outfield, that might make their rebuild process shorter than anticipated.
Looking for an intriguing center fielder? Look no further than Brennen Davis. Davis, a 2018 second round pick, was never intended to be in this position a few years ago. He was the standout player on his high school basketball team, and won his region’s defensive player of the year. But he decided to focus purely on baseball, and it’s paid off well for him. There were some concerns about his bat leading up to the draft, but still got a $1.1 million bonus from the Cubs to sign.
First impressions on Davis led to a great defender with plus speed type of player, but the bat has developed nicely for Chicago. Davis hit .305 with eight homers and 30 RBIs in his first full minor league season in 2019, albeit over only 50 games due to injuries, and he’s performing even better this year. Davis has batted .276 with 12 homers and 33 RBIs while advancing to Double-A in just his second full minor league season. The stolen base numbers might be a little concerning, he only has 17 career stolen bases, but the speed is real.
He has real 30-30 potential at the plate, and has provided solid defense in center field. His glovework is improving, and has the chance to turn into an elite defender. At the rate he’s going, Davis could be manning center field in Wrigley by 2022.
With Davis in center field, who will be manning the corners in this scenario? Let’s start in left field, where Pete Crow-Armstrong could be waiting. Crow-Armstrong, the 19th overall pick in the 2020 draft and the centerpiece of the Javier Baez trade with the Mets, has only six minor league games under his belt, but oozes potential. Leading up to the 2020 draft, Crow-Armstrong was one of the best high school players in the country, and the Mets were glad to pick him and sign him for a $3.3 million bonus.
Crow-Armstrong’s bat is an intriguing one. His swing is quite matured for his young age, but it leads to more line drives. He profiles as more of a gap-to-gap contact hitter, rather than a power hitter. There’s potential for a 15-20 homer type with Crow-Armstrong, but his specialty might be deep doubles into the Wrigley Ivy. Much like Davis, Crow-Armstrong has solid speed, and could easily rack up 30 stolen bases in a year. He and Davis should make for an imposing threat at the top of the order. Crow-Armstrong’s glovework is no slouch either.
He has serious Gold Glove potential. He makes smart routes in the outfield, and combined with his speed, he makes catches look easy. He might be more fit for center field by the time he hits Wrigley, but Davis has more experience in center, so we’ll stick with Crow-Armstrong in left.
With Davis in center and Crow-Armstrong in left, who will be manning right? That looks to be Alexander Canario’s future home. Canario, a 2016 International Free Agent out of the Dominican Republic, was making some serious headlines among the Giants’ brass before being shipped in the Kris Bryant trade. He was looking like an absolute bargain for the Giants. Canario signed for only $60,000 due to the Giants’ IFA pool restrictions in 2016, but still developed into one of their more intriguing prospects.
While Davis and Crow-Armstrong look like speed threats with potential power, Canario is all power from the get-go. His breakout 2019 campaign included a .318 average with 16 homers and 54 RBIs, and has tallied 40 career minor league homers in 249 games, albeit 29 of those have come in the last 173 games. Canario has above-average bat speed, and his growing frame leads to excellent power potential. He has dealt with strikeout issues in his young career, but his plate discipline is improving. He has solid speed potential too, with 47 career stolen bases, including 17 this year. He has an average jump but gets faster as he gets underway.
His speed helps him in the outfield too, as that combined with his plus arm leads to a plus defender on the corners. He would be serviceable in center in necessary, but best to leave him on the corners. Davis and Crow-Armstrong looks like top of the order table-setters, but Canario looks like a middle of the order guy who’s there to do some damage.
Is it dangerous to put all your faith into prospects panning out to their full potential? Absolutely. But, is it also fun to sit back and dream about their potential? Of course. Cubs fans had to say goodbye to several franchise icons all at once, and the loss definitely stings. It’ll be a few years before the trio of Davis, Crow-Armstrong and Canario are ready for Wrigley, but Cubs fans should be waiting anxiously for that day to come. A new set of icons could emerge, and lead Chicago to another dynasty.