Canario powers way into Cubs’ outfield battle

February 26th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Jordan Bastian's Cubs Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

MESA, Ariz. -- Watching prospect during batting practice this spring has only reinforced what makes the young outfielder so intriguing to the Cubs. It is one of the reasons he has found himself in the conversation for a role on Chicago’s Opening Day roster.

“The power is through the roof,” Cubs hitting coach Dustin Kelly said.

The starting jobs in the outfield for the North Siders are set with Ian Happ in left, Seiya Suzuki in right and center going to Cody Bellinger once his deal with the Cubs becomes official in the coming days. Canario is among a group of outfielders who will be jockeying for position in the race for bench jobs.

Chicago has a more polished and versatile backup in Mike Tauchman, an elite defender in center field prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong and a veteran non-roster invitee to consider in David Peralta. All three of those players hit from the left side, while Canario offers a right-handed bat with plus power that could be a weapon against lefties.

“We'll have him at all three outfield spots in Spring Training,” Cubs manager Craig Counsell said. “I think the outfield could get a little tighter here. But obviously, [he has] value as a right-handed hitter against left-handed pitching. We're still figuring out: where does that fit in the lineup and at what position?”

Canario -- who is likely to slot in among the upper half of MLB Pipeline’s revamped 2024 Top 30 list for the Cubs -- is thrilled to be a part of the potential Opening Day equation.

“I'm super thankful, super thankful that they're considering me, that I'm in the plans,” Canario said via Cubs translator Fredy Quevedo. “Whenever my name is called, I'm ready to go out there and perform.”

Acquired as part of the Kris Bryant trade with the Giants at the Deadline in 2021, Canario enjoyed a breakout showing in ‘22 in the Cubs' system: Across three levels, he launched 37 homers with 97 RBIs and an .899 OPS, topping out at Triple-A Iowa. Following that season, Canario sustained serious left ankle and shoulder injuries in winter ball, casting some doubt on his timeline to the Majors.

Canario made an impressive comeback last year, hitting .276/.342/.524 with eight homers and 35 RBIs in 36 games for Iowa after a pair of brief stops at the lower levels. He earned a callup to the Cubs in September, belting a grand slam in his first career start on Sept. 19 against the Pirates and finishing with a .647 slugging percentage in his 17 plate appearances in the big leagues.

“It was very special,” Canario said of his initial taste of the Majors. “I'm very thankful for the team for thinking about me and for giving me the opportunity. That process wasn't wasn't easy, with that serious injury that I went through. But I was able to get myself ready and just was able to come in and just be able to do my part.”