Cubs: What does Brennen Davis’ injury mean for the team’s plans?

Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /

A month to the day since Cubs top prospect Brennen Davis last appeared in a game for Triple-A Iowa, we learned the young outfielder could conceivably miss the rest of the 2022 season after undergoing successful back surgery recently.

"Davis underwent a procedure after persistent discomfort and that led to the discovery of a vascular malformation (a nest of blood vessels) that pushed against a nerve. The positive news was that no structural damage was found in Davis’ back and the highly-touted outfielder is expected to make a full recovery."

Given the surgery took place on Thursday, there’s no way to lay out any sort of reliable timetable as far as his return to baseball activities go – but him being shelved for the rest of the year is definitely a very real possibility. The 22-year-old carried some lofty expectations heading into the season, but really struggled at Iowa, batting just .195/.286/.299 and striking out in nearly one-third of his plate appearances.

Now, if this back issue was an issue even prior to his hitting the IL, that could explain those struggles. After all, we’re talking about a guy who was expected to make his big league debut at some point in 2022 when the season began. He dominated Double-A and Triple-A in 2021 and made big-time jumps on virtually every prospect rankings list coming into the year.

Baseball America pegged him as baseball’s #22 overall prospect, MLB Pipeline had him at #15 and Baseball Prospectus ranked him 27th in their league-wide top 100 prospects list. 

Cubs: What does this mean for Brennen Davis’ timeline heading into 2023?

It seems pretty safe to assume we won’t see Davis at Wrigley Field this summer. But this year was always a long-shot when it comes to the Cubs being competitive and that question has been very much answered in the early going. The bigger question is whether or not Davis’ injury will have an impact on how Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins approach the upcoming offseason.

Christopher Morel has been sensational in the first three or so weeks of his big league career and Ian Happ entered action Friday with an .802 OPS on the year. That being said, Happ is heading into his final year of team control so, barring an extension, his time on the North Side could be over in the next 12-15 months.

Jason Heyward is a total non-factor when it comes to fielding a competitive outfield mix. Rafael Ortega could factor into the picture, but is definitely more of a fourth outfielder/matchup guy. Of course, once Seiya Suzuki returns, he’s your guy in right for years to come.

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In other words, the Cubs could stand pat this winter in the outfield and roll with some combination of Ortega/Morel/Happ/Suzuki out there. That allows Davis to get back to work at Triple-A to open 2023, prove he’s healthy and at 100 percent, then make his way to Chicago come summer. There are at-bats to be had and, given he’s expected to make a full recovery, this injury shouldn’t have too much of a bearing on the team’s plans this winter.