The Cubs have named outfielder Brennen Davis the Buck O’Neil Cubs Minor League Player of the Year and left-handed pitcher DJ Herz the Vedie Himsl Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Neither award comes as much of a surprise, with Davis rocketing into the top 20 of overall prospect lists and Herz getting a whole day named after him. Which is to say it’s Herzday every time he pitches.
The 21-year-old Davis combined to bat .260 with 25 doubles, 19 home runs, 53 RBI, 50 walks, and a .375 on-base percentage in 99 games between High-A South Bend, Double-A Tennessee, and Triple-A Iowa. He actually got better at the highest level, hitting homers in each of his first two at-bats and proving he was more than ready for the late-seeason promotion.
Hitting two home runs in a game wasn’t new for Davis, who earned Most Valuable Player honors at the 2021 MLB Futures Game by jacking two solo shots. His 271 total bases ranked fourth-most among full-season minor league players while his 65 extra-base hits ranked fifth. This is his second Cubs Minor League Player of the Year honor after previously taking home the award in 2019.
He should not have a chance to win it a third time because he deserves to be in Chicago for most of 2022.
Herz, 20, posted a 3.31 ERA in 20 starts between Low-A Myrtle Beach and Single-A South Bend in 2021, striking out 131 and walking 44 and striking out 131 batters in just 81.2 innings. That strikeout total led all Cubs minor leaguers and comes out to 14.4 K/9, which is pretty darn solid.
Herz is currently ranked as the 13th-best prospect in the organization by MLB.com and should have a little upward momentum when the list is updated. But if you want to feel good about what the Cubs are doing from a pitching development standpoint, Herz is the third-ranked lefty pitching prospect behind Brailyn Márquez (No. 2) and Jordan Wicks (No. 6).
Selected in the eighth round of the 2019 draft out of Terry Sanford High School in Fayetteville, NC, Herz is 4-5 with a 3.23 ERA in 26 career minor league starts with 52 walks and 139 strikeouts over 92 innings. After an abbreviated 2019 campaign and the canceled 2020 season, this was his first full year in the minors. Barring any setbacks, Herz should be given a little bit more freedom next year to build up his innings count and see what he can do against more advanced competition at Double-A.