Cubs Stacking AFL Roster with Premier Talent in Davis, Amaya, Mervis

The Cubs always send a strong contingent of prospects out to play with the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League, but it’s typically a roster that only prospectniks can truly appreciate. This fall, however, the organization is stacking the deck with top prospects who’ve already established names for themselves. We’re talking about arguably the Cubs’ top prospect, a former top prospect who is just coming back from elbow reconstruction, and the best hitter in the entire system this season.

Brennen Davis is slated to play in the AFL after missing most of the season with a nerve issue that was causing sciatica-like symptoms in his back and legs. The outfielder tried to play through it early on, hence the disappointing numbers, but he appears to be fully healthy and ready to prove that any concerns over his “injury track record” were unfounded.

Hitting a homer in his first game back with Iowa Tuesday night was a good start and a strong AFL performance will put Davis back on track for a 2023 Chicago debut.

Also on pace to join the big club before long is slugging first baseman Matt Mervis, whose only real obstacle thus far has been that he’s not eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. Mervis has raked at every level and the Cubs desperately need left-handed power, plus they’ve been patchworking first base all year, but there are other roster decisions to be sorted out.

Mervis is an atypical selection for the AFL because he’s played the whole season and is pretty clearly an advanced hitter, but the Cubs likely want to see him continue to work on his defense. Paging Kris Bryant. The team might also want to have Mervis used situationally against lefties to keep growing on that front. If he shows out in Mesa, the Cubs will need to make the obvious choice of naming him the primary option at first next season.

That brings us to Miguel Amaya, the catcher who hasn’t caught yet since undergoing elbow reconstruction last winter. He served as a DH while rehabbing in the Arizona Complex League and has been doing the same at Double-A Tennessee. A dislocated finger put his return on hold for a week, but he went 2-for-4 with a walk and an RBI in his return to the lineup Tuesday night.

This will actually be his second stint in the AFL, the first of which came back in 2019 when he was viewed as the Next Big Thing at catcher. Former Cub Scott Effross was a teammate of Amaya’s at the time and the sidearmer, who was still getting used to his new delivery at the time, raved about the young catcher’s game-calling prowess.

Amaya has only had a total of 234 competitive plate appearances since the 2019 season, so playing in the AFL will help him make up at least a little bit of a whole lot of lost time. More importantly, Mark Gonzales tweeted that Amaya “is expected to get plenty of catching work” in Mesa. That’s huge from a developmental standpoint and could have him in line for a 2023 MLB debut as well.

As lofty as that seems, Amaya will be 24 in March and has already shown that his plate approach is as sharp as ever. I’m not talking about starting the season as the primary catcher, or even the backup, but a lot depends on what happens with Willson Contreras.

These three players alone make for an exciting group, and that’s before we’ve even gotten into the pitching staff. Those names should start coming out soon and we’ll have more coverage once they do, then you can count on us having feet on the ground during the AFL season to provide additional insight. Now if only MLB could figure out a way to stream those games live.

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