Brennen Davis Hopes Revamped Swing Helps Make Up Lost Time

Image credit: Brennen Davis (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Brennen Davis has had to make several life-altering decisions in the last couple of years, always a daunting task for a young man still in his teens. First, the Chandler, Arizona native had to decide whether to cast his lot in basketball or baseball as a junior in high school. He went with baseball, and after being drafted last June by the Chicago Cubs with their second-round pick, Davis had to decide whether to sign with the Cubs or accept an offer to play collegiately at the University of Miami.

Davis, 19, hasn’t looked back since joining the Cubs organization.

Spending his entire time with the Cubs at their minor league facility in Mesa, Arizona, just a short drive from the family home, has perhaps made his entry into pro ball a bit easier. But he’s ready to give up that safety net and start moving up in the Cubs organization, even though it will cut back on those Sunday dinners at home and the chance to see the family’s unique array of pets, including a couple of llamas and alpacas.

Davis had a lot of development time to make up when reporting to Chicago Cubs minor league spring training this year, being behind similar scholastic ballplayers because of a recurring hamstring injury during his senior season at Chandler’s Basha High — not to mention the previous time he spent on the basketball court. After reporting to the Cubs Arizona League affiliate to start his pro career Davis missed even more time on the field due to nagging injuries.

If his performance during the early weeks of extended spring training are any indication, Davis is making up for the lost time quite well. What’s most notable is how much stronger the right-handed hitting outfielder is this year, having gained more than 20 pounds of muscle during the off-season after working out with the Cubs strength & conditioning group.

Any concerns that Davis would lose some of his natural athleticism through the added strength are allayed by observers who have noticed that he looks even more athletic on the field even with the added bulk.

Davis comes by his athleticism naturally, as his mother, Jakkis, was a track star at the University of Washington in her collegiate days. He knows the importance of maintaining that athleticism as his career progresses.

“I like to think that’s part of my game,” Davis said. “A lot of it is God-given. But continually working in the weight room to improve what I can do to make myself faster and stronger, it’s only going to make me stronger.”

Amateur scouts tracking Davis during his high school career noticed him making swing changes during his senior season, adding more fluidity to the swing and working to get the ball in the air more even when he was limited more to cage work due to the injury. His swing has only gotten better since joining the Cubs organization.

“Since moving into pro ball a lot of stuff has been swing path,” Davis said. “Finishing high and (getting) A-to-B contact … It’s going to make my game so much better.”

Cubs minor league hitting coach Michael Carter has worked closely with Davis since last summer and has seen continual progress from the young outfielder.

“Brennen has been working a lot on his swing path and trying to keep his hands from getting out around the baseball,” Carter said.

“He’s had to slow things down a little bit and restructure his swing a little bit … There’s still a lot of work in progress but he’s been making a lot of improvements. Most of the stuff he’s been doing here is new to him. He’s trying to get more of a feel of how the hands work in the swing and how the bat should travel through the swing and the strike zone on different pitches. A lot of it has to do with more of a mental approach, being able to allow him to play to his strengths and not be so worried about his weaknesses.”

Carter added that, like other outfielders in extended spring training, Davis is also working on getting better reads, angles and jumps in the outfield. Improving his defensive skills will go a long way to becoming a more complete player, according to Carter.

The extra work he gets from the Cubs coaches has convinced Davis that he made the right choice in passing on his scholarship with the Hurricanes.

“I think I would have progressed as a player (at Miami),” Davis said, “but I’m going to progress a lot faster as a pro player here just with the amount of repetition and the coaching that we have here … It’s really going to put me in a spot where I want to be, and that’s why I decided to go pro as opposed to going to college.”

Davis also doesn’t regret giving up basketball, even after his Basha High team won the Arizona 6A state championship in his junior year, capping a 30-1 season in which he was named the region’s Defensive Player of the Year. He brings some of the same traits he used to succeed in basketball over to baseball, specifically pointing out the intensity and different mindset needed on the hardwoods.

“I like the teamwork aspect of it (basketball) and being able to pick each other up,” Davis said. “Being a leader is what I bring from basketball because baseball can be really individualized … I like to bring those aspects (to baseball).”

While Davis will miss being near his family, not to mention the many inhabitants of their little family zoo, he’s eager to get around the rest of the country soon. It was one of the reasons that he had committed to Miami.

“I was ready to get out and explore the world,” Davis said. He may get the chance to start traversing the Cubs minor league system before long, possibly heading to the short-season affiliate in Eugene, Oregon when Northwest League play starts in June.

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