DENVER — Brennen Davis sat in the stands behind home plate at Wrigley Field on a September 2019 evening and watched his dream unfold before his eyes.
There was Anthony Rizzo, homering early in an important game against the division-rival Cardinals. There were Kris Bryant and Javy Baez, each scoring during a ninth-inning rally that sent the game to extra innings. There were those inimitable World Series winners — Cubs icons — whipping those famous fans into a frenzy while shining under the bright lights of the Show.
“That was electric,” Davis said Sunday at Coors Field, where he played — and homered twice as the National League won 8-3 — in the 22nd MLB All-Star Futures Game. “Those games are always unbelievable.”
Davis, a 6-4, 210-pound outfielder and right-handed hitter, was honored that night at Wrigley as the Cubs’ minor league player of the year. Now 21 and playing at Double-A Tennessee, the 2018 second-round draft pick is the organization’s No. 2-ranked prospect — first among non-pitchers.
His time is coming, and soon. Anyone who doubts that can ask the baseball he smacked over the 415 sign in center off Twins Triple-A righty Josh Winder in the fourth inning. Or the baseball he smacked over the 390 sign in left-center off Orioles Triple-A righty Marcus Diplan in the sixth.
“My dream is to be a big leaguer,” he said. “Whenever I get my chance, I’ll be ready.”
But will a recognizable Cubs lineup be waiting for him upon his arrival? How many of the stars Davis imagined himself eventually playing alongside of and learning from will still be around if he gets a September call-up or surfaces on the North Side in 2022?
The 2021 Cubs have gone off a cliff. With the July 30 trade deadline bearing down, that puts the statuses of impending free agents Rizzo, Bryant and Baez on red alert. Any Cub, though — or any prospect, including Davis, who is slashing .278/.381/.481 in 31 games at Double-A — could find himself part of a trade.
As far as the organization’s big-league picture, the view from below has changed.
“There’s a lot going on with the Cubs right now,” Davis said.
“It’s crazy how baseball works. You see these guys and you don’t even think that, like, they could play for another team. Like [Nolan] Arenado going to the Cardinals. You don’t imagine any of that. But, at the end of the day, baseball’s a business and you’ve got to put yourself in position to win. So whatever they have to do.”
Baseball itself is kind of crazy these days, up to its elbows in no-hitters, spin rates, sticky substances, the Trevor Bauer scandal and worries about a work stoppage after the current collective-bargaining agreement expires on Dec. 1. But the game is going to be fine because the biggest names on everybody’s lips here this week — Fernando Tatis Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Shohei Ohtani — belong to superstars in their early and mid-20s, and that’s a sign of robust health.
The Futures Game is a nice annual reminder that the game belongs to the young and ever more talented. Tatis and Guerrero played in one of these spectacles on his way up. So did Miguel Cabrera, Clayton Kershaw, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Jose Altuve and Bryant before them. This year’s game featured Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman, Tigers infielder Spencer Torkelson and Mariners outfielders Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez — the top four prospects in baseball (not counting current major leaguer Wander Franco).
Also on the field was the Sox’ No. 2-ranked prospect — and their No. 1 among non-pitchers — Yoelqui Cespedes. Once the sport’s No. 1-ranked international prospect, Cespedes, a 5-9, 205-pound outfielder, is already 23. Less than two years after defecting from Cuba, with the pandemic and visa troubles having stalled his early progress, he’s only a few weeks into first minor-league assignment at High-A Winston-Salem.
But Cespedes sees the great thing the Sox have going at the big-league level and wants in ASAP. He’s under the impression that 2022 will be when it happens and won’t pretend he wouldn’t like to be in right field on Opening Day — 10 years after half-brother Yoanis Cespedes made his big-league debut with the A’s on Opening Day.
“I want to play with Eloy [Jimenez] in left field, [Luis] Robert in the middle and me in right field,” he said.
See, the view of the Sox from below has never been clearer or better.
Meanwhile, Davis — who won Futures Game MVP and received the trophy from Ken Griffey Jr. — is rooting for his own advancement while hoping it isn’t doesn’t lead him to a total afterthought of a team.
“It’s definitely in the back of everybody’s heads,” he said. “But you try not to worry about it. You just play your game. We’re all trying to get better. We’re all trying to help the Cubs win at some point.”
And if he can do that someday? Out of the stands and onto the field? Actually living the dream?
“I think playing at Wrigley Field is the epitome of baseball,” he said. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”