Looks Like Pete Crow-Armstrong Forcing His Way into Extended Stay

With zero due respect to those who believe 19 plate appearances constitute a legitimate sample size, Pete Crow-Armstrong didn’t get much of a chance to prove his worth last season. But with the outfield set following Cody Bellinger‘s return, it was clear the hyperactive rookie needed a little more seasoning in Triple-A. He seemingly needed more than he got, but the Cubs were forced to promote him when Bellinger went down with fractured ribs.

Though some of his peripherals indicated he was outperforming his stats, PCA was batting .203 with a 56 wRC+ over 83 PAs with Iowa and it looked like he was going to be little more than a stopgap. As he’s gotten more experience in the bigs, however, he’s proven he can be the impact player the Cubs believed he could be when they sent Javier Báez and Trevor Williams to the Mets at the deadline in 2021.

The thing you need to realize about Crow-Armstrong, and apologies to those who have read it here before or who already understood it, is that he only needs to be a league-average hitter to be a solid everyday player. With a bunt single and a triple that featured the fastest home-to-third time (11.01 sec) in MLB this year, he raised his season wRC+ to 103. For the uninitiated, that means he’s 3% better than average when it comes to producing runs.

Depending on which version you prefer, PCA has a very nice WAR in the 0.6-0.9 range in just 59 plate appearances. That’s because he ranks 14th in MLB with six defensive runs saved despite playing just 147 innings in the field. Only Michael A. Taylor (8) has more DRA in center, but he’s played 273 innings. Daulton Varsho, son of former Cubs great Gary Varsho, is the closest to PCA’s value with 6 DRS in 164 innings. It gets even more impressive when you consider that the Cubs rookie is playing in most ballparks for the first time and you gain an even greater appreciation for what he’s doing.

The effortless manner with which he makes most plays belies both the level of difficulty for the average elite baseball player and the work Crow-Armstrong puts into his craft. He’s not just showing up and relying on his speed, though it’s fair to say his peerless kinesthetic awareness gives him an advantage. I was about to refer to his talent as being rooted in “preternatural proprioception,” but that seems both gratuitous and indicative of something he was born with.

There’s a lot of innate ability, sure, but this dude has been working on his body control since his days at Harvard-Westlake High School and he remains a student of the game in that regard. Whether it’s warning track drills or plotting out optimal routes based on the size of the outfield he’ll be patrolling, he’s very well prepared. As Crow-Armstrong told Boog Sciambi during the series in Atlanta, he very much prefers the bigger fields that give him more room to roam.

Even if the Cubs finally get the roster fully healthy again, or as close to it as possible, PCA has proven he belongs in Chicago as at least a semi-regular fixture. And at less than two months past his 22nd birthday, he should be there for a long time to come.

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