Being named an organization’s top prospect means carrying fans’ hopes and dreams while also drawing more scrutiny from evaluators. And while one of those two groups tends to be a wee bit more subjective and emotional than the other, there appears to be a lack of context when it comes to recent adjustments to prospect rankings.
I’m speaking specifically about Baseball America dropping Brennen Davis to No. 47 in its most recent Top 100 update ($), which puts him 13 spots behind Pete Crow-Armstrong. That decision isn’t very surprising in and of itself because PCA is breaking out in a big way by showing an excellent offensive profile in addition to his elite glove while Davis has spent most of the season on the IL after getting off to a slow start. But it’s the way BA and other outlets are viewing Davis’s situation that has me giving them some serious side-eye.
“Davis has excelled when he’s been on the field, but too often he’s been sidelined with injuries that are starting to pile up,” the BA staff wrote in its Midseason Risers and Fallers explanation ($).
“Davis suffered a hamstring injury that limited him his senior year of high school, missed most of his first full season with a broken right index finger and missed the start of last year with a concussion. Expected to ascend to Chicago this year, he instead played only 22 games for Triple-A Iowa before having season-ending back surgery [emphasis mine].”
First things first, they’re knocking him for a hammy issue four years ago and then for troubles stemming from being hit by pitches. He hasn’t shown a history of leg injuries in the time since and beanballs aren’t chronic unless you’re Willson Contreras facing the Brewers. This analysis feels flimsy, but it falls short of full-blown laziness until the bolded section.
The article was published on July 12, five days after Tommy Birch of the Des Moine Register reported that Davis was preparing to resume baseball activities and was on schedule to return this season. Even if the individual player breakdowns had already been completed, BA had more than enough time to go in and amend their information on Davis. Look, I get that there are tons of prospects out there and that keeping up with all the updates can be tough, but this is literally their job.
In addition to missing the fact that Davis is nearing a return, there’s a tacit lack of understanding as to the nature of the procedure. Though it’s technically accurate, calling it a “back surgery” is nebulous and makes it seem far more significant than it was. Rather than correcting a herniated disc or some other structural problem, doctors had to mitigate a vascular formation that was pressing on a nerve and causing sciatica-like pain.
Also seemingly absent from this and other evaluations is how that nerve issue might have hampered Davis over a mere 91 plate appearances in Triple-A this season. He hit .195 with a .585 OPS and just two homers, though it’s entirely likely he was doing so while battling discomfort. It’s tough to judge someone on such a small sample, let alone when he might have been playing at much less than full strength.
Davis won’t turn 23 until November and it’s important to remember that he only started focusing on baseball after being drafted, so it’s not like we’re talking about someone who’s in danger of hitting Quad-A status.
“That said, he desperately has to prove he can stay on the field,” BA wrote. “Increasingly, there are more and more doubts he’ll be able to do that given his growing injury track record.”
Where I do agree with them is that the lack of reps in general is troubling when looking at the ability to develop properly. Davis has never logged more than 416 plate appearances in a season and that total from three levels in 2021 is more than he’s had in parts of three other seasons combined (367). The missing COVID year saw him working out at the team’s alternate site, which is helpful, but it’s not quite the same.
We’ll be able to kiss any fears goodbye if Davis looks good once he’s able to come back this season, then he can blow up any residual concern with a big spring training. In the meantime, I think it’s best to view the situation through the proper lens. It’s perfectly fine to be cautious about his development based on the amount of time he’s missed, just don’t go leaning into ideas about him being injury-prone.