The Cubs aren’t in any hurry to rush Pete Crow-Armstrong through the system, so don’t expect him to get the call to Double-A Tennessee even though he’s got a 156 wRC+ over his last 25 games and is slashing .295/.339/.527 overall at South Bend. It’s pretty clear that he’s made adjustments since experiencing mild growing pains following his promotion from Myrtle Beach, now the organization just wants to see him maintain this production.
As Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney laid out in The Athletic, the biggest shift for PCA at High-A has been his improved swing decisions. His offensive explosion is the result of building a swing capable of doing damage, but the issue was learning which pitches he could actually put in play with authority. As opposing pitchers displayed better stuff at the higher level of play, Crow-Armstrong had to be more discerning in order to avoid bad contact and/or getting behind in counts.
He has improved both his strikeout and walk rates over the last month, an excellent sign that comes from over 100 plate appearances. That’s significant because plate discipline numbers tend to stabilize at around the century mark. Great, that means we know he can keep being this kind of hitter it’s time to promote him, right? Not so fast.
There are just over two weeks left in the High-A and Double-A seasons, so Crow-Armstrong would only get a max of maybe 70 plate appearances if he was promoted today. Assuming he’d have to work through some adjustments, there wouldn’t really be enough time to make them. And even if he came in hot, the sample wouldn’t be large enough to provide any truly meaningful results. Next year, however, is a different story.
Crow-Armstrong is likely to open the season at Tennessee, which Sharma and Mooney note puts him well in line to join the Cubs in Chicago by 2024. A 2023 debut isn’t out of the question either, as he could keep forcing his way through the system or even make the jump directly from Double-A. The only real question, and I think PCA has answered it well to this point, is whether the bat can simply be league-average in the majors.
He’s got a 70-grade glove, which is a carrying trait that makes him very valuable in and of itself by giving him one of the highest floors among any Cubs prospects. We’re talking about a multi-WAR player as long as his offense doesn’t crater, but continuing to hit like he has means Crow-Armstrong could be worth 5+ wins annually for years to come. His speed helps there as well because he’s going to get plenty of extra bases with his legs.
If I were a betting man, I’d head over to the sportsbook at Wrigley once it opens and place a bet on PCA being in Chicago by this time next year. Then I’d place a bigger bet on him breaking camp with the team following spring training in ’24. And while I’m at it, I’m laying some cash on his Rookie of the Year odds. This kid’s going to be the goods, it’s just a matter of how quickly we get to see him at the highest level.