By Todd Johnson
Not every prospect takes a straight path. And not every prospect is going to be named in a list somewhere on the Internet. For most prospects, their path to the major leagues ends at some point. Only one in about 40 drafted prospects make it to the show. However, there are exceptions to every rule.
For the Iowa Cubs, one thing they have not struggled with this year has been their ability to hit. Two players who are drilling the ball are Cubs prospects who have been hanging around for quite a while. They are 26 and 27-years-old, they have not given up on their dream, and they are playing better than ever.
It’s not that catcher Taylor Davis was a fast track prospect, but the 2011 undrafted free agent kind of flew through the lower part of the minors, basically skipping class A Peoria. Though Davis has always had the potential for power, his high leg kick gives him the ability to hit for average. Beginning in 2015, Davis’ bat really became his calling card. He hit .319 in 21 games at Tennessee and followed that up hitting .309 in 83 games at AAA Iowa.
2016 saw him fight off some nagging injuries and also saw him bounced around due to the ascendancy of one Willson Contreras. This year, even though Victor Caratini is tearing it up at AAA, Davis has found playing time at first base, designated hitter, and he even tools around in the outfield. He got up off a semi-slow start in April hitting just .273. In May, he turned it on hitting over .300 and is off to a good start to June.
Before Chesney Young came along, the utility player who basically could fall out of bed and lace a single to right was none other than Stephen Bruno. The 5’9″ utility player came to the Cubs via The University of Virginia in 2012. He was part of winning teams in Boise and Peoria and missed a championship in Daytona because of Tommy John surgery in 2013.
When he returned to full time action in 2014, Bruno was assigned to AA Tennessee. In 105 games he hit .276. I thought for sure he would be headed to AAA Iowa to begin 2015, but he wound back up in Tennessee where he played another 105 games and hit .263.
Minor injuries dogged him off and on in 2016 as he only played and 35 games while hitting .272.
This year, Bruno looks to be at full strength and playing all over the field. His ability to hit for average is reminiscent of his early days in Boise and Peoria. So far, in 41 games, he is hitting .306. In April, he only saw action in 16 games while hitting .233. With the promotions of Candelario and Happ, Bruno finally got some consistent playing time as he hit .313 in May.
I would like to see them both get a chance at the majors. I realize it’s probably not gonna come with the Cubs. Still, these are two guys that you like to root for. Every step of their development has been about playing hard to win, hitting, and being a good teammate. Considering that one of the main skills required in the major leagues is hitting, you would think that somebody would want to give them a shot, even if it’s in a bench role. It’s pretty clear that their path to the major leagues is being blocked by an all-star, or several all-stars. Sometimes, you still have to hope there is a chance that somehow, someway they will both get their opportunity.