Evaluating the Cubs System Before an Epic Trade Deadline: an Interview with Jim Callis

Jim Callis, Senior Writer for MLB.com

[Brennen Davis] is a guy who’s got potential 20/20, 30/30 [home runs and steals in a season] upside as a center fielder.

Jim Callis on Cubs prospect Brennen Davis

A special thanks to Jim Callis, Senior Writer for MLB.com for joining

After the MLB Draft and before the most impactful trade deadline in organization history, the Chicago Cubs farm system was in flux. Talent was trickling up through the lower minors, Brennen Davis was showing off on the national stage, most of the upper level prospects were working their way back from injury, and Cubs fans were encouraged by recent talent brought in from 2021 MLB Draft. As the trade deadline storm approached, the Cubs organization was still viewed as a “bottom third” (21-30 ranked) farm system. While that ranking has been seriously adjusted since, it’s a good reminder that there were encouraging notes from prior to any significant trades. Jim Callis of MLB.com stopped by to discuss the Cubs system before the deadline.

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Brennen Davis

No player in the Cubs system has surged quite like Brennen Davis. As of this writing, Davis is off to a .267/.383/.515 start as a 21-year-old at AA. Since July 6th, he’s produced at an eye-popping .292/.414/.639 (1.053 OPS!) line with only a 24.1 K% and a 183 wRC+. Brennen Davis is a superstar and the national media is taking serious note. According to Jim Callis, “I think he’s been on top of our prospects list for a while and I think he’s one of the better outfield prospects in the game. I think the tools are pretty obvious, and the production has been there pretty much since day one. I think he was more advanced as a hitter, than the Cubs even realized when they signed him a couple of years [in 2018]”. While Davis has more development, Callis noted that ultimately the most critical part of the young outfielder’s progression is likely just getting more playing time. “[It’s] just a matter of being healthy. He had the finger injuries in ’19. Then he didn’t get to play last year, he got hit in the head in spring training so they started kind of slow, and it’s crazy, he was drafted in 2018 draft. I think, as we’re recording this, he has played 114 games in pro ball just because of the circumstances. But I still think this is a guy who’s got potential 20/20, 30/30 [home runs and steals in a season] upside as a center fielder” Callis said.

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Jordan Wicks

The Cubs brought in “the complete package” in Jordan Wicks according to Cubs VP of Scouting, Dan Kantrovitz. While it was a surprise selection to some, the national reports on Wicks back-up the premise that the Cubs landed an excellent prospect. “I thought Wicks was a great fit for the Cubs and it was kind of nice that he fell to him 21. I thought he was gonna kind of go into mid teens [in the draft]. He was the best left handed pitcher in the draft, certainly on the college side” Callis said. “Consensus was that he has the best changeup in the draft. Wicks is 6’3″, 220lbs, low 90s with good spin rates on his fastball to give it riding action. He improved his slider this year. It’s his third pitch. It’s kind of average. [He] throws strikes, competes well, and mixes his pitches well. I once got a comp to Reid Detmers, who’s a Illinois High School product who was number 10 pick in last year’s draft out of Louisville, but with the changeup rather than the curveball as his dominant pitch. I really liked him a lot. I think he can move quick and I think getting a guy like that with 21st pick which I think was a little unexpected was just great fit for the Cubs who have had trouble developing pitching”

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The Arizona Complex League

The Yu Darvish trade had a massive impact on the perceived direction of the big-league club. After winning the division during the COVID-19 season of 2020, the Cubs made the decision to sell-high on the NL Cy Young runner-up. The decision to move Darvish was already shocking, but the return brought out significant vitriol from Cubs fans. As the dust settled, Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini brought back Zach Davies and “four teenage prospects”, hardly the expected return for an ace. These trades always require a long-view to properly evaluate, but less than a year later, the younger prospects in the deal are performing at a high level. Jim Callis notes that two of the players, Reginald Preciado and Owen Caissie in particular, are making waves. “Preciado is 6’4″ and could hit for power and average from both sides of the plate. In the long run, (I haven’t seen if they’ve been playing him at third or playing at short) he’s athletic and can give you a solid defender at third. If he doesn’t stay in the dirt, he can play right field, but I think the bat is gonna profile. It’s a really high upside” Callis said. “Caissie is the same thing. He’s got some of the best power in last year’s draft. [He has a] strong arm. I think it kind of fits that classic rightfield profile. Both these guys have high ceilings, so if you’re the Cubs I think you’re really pleased they got off the to [hot] starts.” Callis said.

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The Cubs are definitely a system on the rise now, but even before the trade deadline, the 2021 minor league season provided encouraging signs. It won’t be long before players in the upper minors begin to make their Wrigley debuts. It’s a very good time to start diving into the Cubs minor league prospects.

Want to hear more insights into the 2021 Cubs draft picks? Or hear Jim’s thoughts on DJ Herz, Yohendrick Pinango, and others? The full interview is available soon

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Greg Zumach

Following the Cubs minor leagues and the MLB draft has been my passion since I became a fan. I try to focus on deeper dives into players along with MLB Draft content throughout the year.

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