As various recruiting sites have rolled out their preseason lists of baseball’s top prospects, Pete Crow-Armstrong continues to see his stock rise.
One of latest examples comes from MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospect list that was released last Thursday. The 20-year-old outfielder was by far the highest ranked Cubs prospect, coming in at No. 28 in the top 100 (ahead of Kevin Alcantara at No. 87 and Brennen Davis at No. 92). He also found himself ranked at No. 26 when The Athletic’s Keith Law released his updated top 100 on Monday.
Still two months shy of his 21st birthday, his rise in the eyes of evaluators outside the organization already has Cubs fans dreaming of a major league debut they hope will come sooner rather than later. The thing is, Crow-Armstrong says he isn’t worried about where his name falls on the prospect rankings. He appears content to just try to be the best baseball player he can be and let the chips fall how they may in terms of how evaluators view him.
“I don’t pay attention to it,” Crow-Armstrong said at Cubs Convention earlier this month. “I don’t know when I get moved in the rankings. I don’t know any of that. I don’t really care.”
Crow-Armstrong isn’t feeling the pressure of being almost universally considered the top prospect in the system. The Cubs aren’t trying to put any more pressure on him, either, as they’re not openly discussing any specific target date for him to reach the majors.
That doesn’t mean they won’t give him every opportunity to show what he can do when he’s surrounded by major leaguers.
Crow-Armstrong confirmed on 670 The Score’s “Inside the Clubhouse” on Jan. 21 that he’s been invited to big league camp when spring training starts next month. That means he’ll spend the spring (or at least most of it) working with the big league players who should one day be his teammates.
“I feel lucky to have gotten that invite, for the main reason that I’m not going over there to step on anybody’s toes,” Crow-Armstrong told The Score. “What I mean by that is just, I know that I’m not there to make a roster. And for me, I think that’s really cool, because it just lets me be there and learn.
“Obviously, the same rules still apply. It’s respect everybody off the field and respect your elders and everything, but when I’m on the field, the work is still the same. It doesn’t really change. I get to be myself. I think that’s cool, because hopefully, God willing, I am up in the big leagues pretty soon, and I want these guys up there to get to know me.”
The big league camp invite is great, but there’s no realistic shot he breaks camp on the active roster. Really, he’d have to have an incredible season in the minor leagues to even have a chance at a cup-of-coffee call-up at the end of the year. But to have that first-hand experience being around players who’ve done it at the major league level is invaluable for a young guy coming off his first full season of pro ball.
That includes getting to learn from the Cubs’ new center fielder, Cody Bellinger.
With Crow-Armstrong still likely a year away from making his debut at best, and with the debuts of other top outfield prospects like Brennen Davis and Alexander Canario delayed by injuries, it mades sense for the Cubs to go outside the organization to find an upgrade in center. Bellinger is coming off a few down seasons following his National League MVP season in 2019, but he still has as high of an upside as anyone on the roster.
Could the Cubs have looked at a longer-term solution in center instead of bringing in someone on a one-year deal? Especially after Bellinger’s agent, Scott Boras, made it clear they were looking for that one-year, “pillow contract” type of deal to prove himself before reentering the market next winter (assuming the mutual option in his contract isn’t exercised)?
Sure, but the Cubs appear to be confident in what they have coming through the pipeline. They didn’t feel the need to shore up center field by making a long-term commitment to an established player. With someone like Crow-Armstrong quickly rising through the system, they believe their center fielder of the future is coming from within.
That idea in and of itself could put pressure on Crow-Armstrong to live up to the hype. But again, he didn’t feel that way about the Bellinger signing. He didn’t read into the Cubs going with a one-year commitment as anything more than the Cubs bringing in a good player to help them win in 2023.
“I just get excited for what’s to come,” Crow-Armstrong said. “I want to see the guys that are up there right now, I want to see them win. Just like they’re happy for our success. That just benefits the organization as a whole. What we do down there and what they do up there, it doesn’t matter. It’s all baseball.”
Organizational success is what should matter most, and Crow-Armstrong clearly feels that way. He isn’t sweat the idea that he could be spending another full season in the minors while he awaits his big league debut.
There will certainly be a time in the near future when his name is called. But the Cubs aren’t intent on rushing it, and Crow-Armstrong isn’t feeling any pressure to force that call to come any sooner.