'I'm here to play my part': Cubs call up top prospect Crow-Armstrong

September 12th, 2023

DENVER -- has the type of elite defense and plus speed that could make an impact in a postseason chase. The Cubs are putting that idea to the test as they make a final push for a place on the October stage.

The Cubs promoted Crow-Armstrong, MLB Pipeline’s No. 12-ranked overall prospect, from Triple-A Iowa on Monday for Chicago’s road series against the Rockies. When he walked into the visitors’ clubhouse at Coors Field, there was a series of excited hugs and handshakes as he made his way through the room.

“I feel like I just got my moment to breathe,” said Crow-Armstrong, sitting in the dugout before Monday’s game. “Getting into the clubhouse was a little much, but everybody just was the most welcoming. Yeah, it was a nice scene when I walked in.”

With a 5-4 win over the Rockies at Coors Field, the Cubs are three behind the first-place Brewers in the National League Central. Chicago is also in the second NL Wild Card spot, sitting 1 1/2 games behind the Phillies and two games ahead of the D-backs.

In the victory, Crow-Armstrong entered as a pinch-runner in the seventh inning, but was later thrown out trying to steal third. In the ninth, the center fielder used a sacrifice bunt to move a runner up to second base, while a Cubs-leaning road crowd chanted: “P-C-A!”

“He didn't have a chance to showcase his skills,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “But really nice bunt there late and roaming center field. I'm sure he was happy to be part of a win and hopefully he'll be a part of a lot more.”

The Cubs optioned outfielder Alexander Canario to Triple-A Iowa and designated lefty Anthony Kay for assignment to open spots on the active and 40-man rosters, respectively, for Crow-Armstrong.

Ross noted that Crow-Armstrong would have some starts “mixed in,” adding that the center fielder could help given Coors Field’s spacious outfield. Corner infielder Jeimer Candelario was out of the lineup on Monday after exiting Sunday’s game due to his back tightening up on him.

Crow-Armstrong’s arrival gives Ross some roster flexibility. If Candelario needs to rest for a couple games, Cody Bellinger would be an option at first base (along with Patrick Wisdom). Mike Tauchman is Chicago’s main backup in center, but now Crow-Armstrong provides another option.

“He earned the callup,” Ross said. “We've got a group of guys that have gotten us here, but he could definitely help us out.”

Even if Crow-Armstrong is on the bench, he boasts an electric skill set that can make a difference. In center field, specifically, the 21-year-old Crow-Armstrong is not only considered one of the best defenders in the Minor Leagues, but potentially in all of baseball.

“I don’t think it’s an overstatement,” Cubs vice president of player development Jared Banner said recently. “I think Pete is an excellent defensive outfielder. I’m not sure what exact grade I would put on him, but he’s certainly a premium defender.”

Pipeline gives him an 80 grade for defense, given his great speed (60 grade), instincts and drive to chase down baseballs in any direction. Last season, he picked up a Minor League Gold Glove Award for his work in center field.

It was Banner who called Crow-Armstrong on Sunday to deliver the news that he was heading to The Show.

“We think Pete’s really mature and he’s an amazing competitor,” Banner said. “He shows up every day looking to work and get better. And he’s shown the ability to adjust and respond to adversity when it comes. So, he’s in a really good spot.”

Crow-Armstrong was thrilled to be joining the Cubs in the thick of a playoff hunt.

“It's special and it's definitely something that I've had my mind on for just about all year,” he said. “I've tried really hard to stay present. But I think if you're a determined person, and if you're a competitor, I think that it's hard not to think about situations like this.”

The promotion also comes as Crow-Armstrong -- whom people around the Cubs, along with fans, often refer to as PCA -- has been on a tear with Iowa. He crushed his second grand slam in a week on Sunday and has hit at a .311 clip with an .859 OPS in his past 10 games at Triple-A. In 34 games with the I-Cubs, PCA has 10 steals, 15 extra-base hits, 22 RBIs, 30 runs and an .829 OPS.

Overall this season, Crow-Armstrong has hit .283/.365/.511 in exactly 500 plate appearances between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa. He has piled up 20 homers, 26 doubles, seven triples and 82 RBIs, while stealing 37 bases and scoring 98 runs in 107 games. One area to improve would be his strike-zone discipline (25.8% strikeout rate this season).

The Cubs acquired Crow-Armstrong -- selected 19th overall by the Mets out of Harvard-Westlake High School (Los Angeles) in the 2020 Draft -- in the ‘21 Trade Deadline deal that sent shortstop Javier Báez to New York. The center fielder has pointed out in the past that Báez was his favorite player when he was a kid growing up as a Cubs fan in California.

As it happened, Báez was a highly touted Cubs prospect who got the call to The Show on Aug. 5, 2014, when the North Siders were in Colorado. In his MLB debut, the shortstop launched a game-deciding homer in the 12th inning to give him his first career hit, and Chicago a dramatic win.

Crow-Armstrong is about to start writing his own story with the Cubs.

“I'm here to play my part,” Crow-Armstrong said. “They've got a really good thing here, so however I can fit in, I'm glad to do it. However I can produce and provide, that's all I'm really thinking about.”