PCA doing 'the right things' in wake of Bellinger return

Cubs' top prospect ready for whatever team asks of him ahead of '24 season

February 26th, 2024

MESA, Ariz. – A few weeks ago, Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson had a long conversation over the phone with prospect . It was an opportunity for the young center fielder to ask questions and have an open and honest chat about a wide array of topics.

“We just kind of really unpacked everything,” Swanson said.

One of Swanson’s big takeaways was that Crow-Armstrong has his priorities in the right order. The veteran was impressed with the types of questions that were asked and was happy that the rookie was comfortable enough to speak his mind and also pick Swanson’s brain throughout the discussion.

So when Crow-Armstrong -- the player potentially impacted the most by Cody Bellinger’s return -- says that he is thrilled that the Cubs are reportedly re-signing the star center fielder, Swanson believes him. The way the shortstop has viewed the situation, this is not a kid just saying the right things when the cameras are on.

“He believes the right things,” Swanson said. “I think that so often, we think, 'Oh, it's just good media training.' No, he believes in those things. … Everything he asks and sees, it's the right things. It's a very genuine nature of wanting to win and wanting to do whatever he can to help this group.”

There was a clearer path to the Opening Day roster for Crow-Armstrong -- MLB Pipeline’s top Cubs prospect and the No. 16 prospect in baseball -- before the North Siders reached an agreement Sunday (per sources) on a three-year, $80 million pact with Bellinger. Now, the most likely outcome appears to be having Crow-Armstrong open the season with Triple-A Iowa.

The Cubs' three starting outfield spots are locked in between left fielder Ian Happ, right fielder Seiya Suzuki and Bellinger. For complementary roles, Chicago also has a versatile experienced outfielder in Mike Tauchman, plus slugging prospect Alexander Canario to consider, among other options.

Crow-Armstrong boasts Major League-ready defense and plus speed, making him an intriguing player who could help win games in the immediate picture even as a part-timer. The Cubs’ decision-makers must weigh that against his overall development, which might be helped by regular playing time in Iowa rather than a sporadic bench job for Chicago.

Throughout his career in the Minors, Crow-Armstrong has been a dynamic offensive performer, but his brief taste of the big leagues last year exposed some areas for growth. The Cubs were impressed by how Crow-Armstrong internalized the end of his season and the work he put in ahead of camp.

“I think he's in a great mental space,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said earlier this spring. “He looks great physically, and he's been working on his swing. And he's a good teammate. He wants the Cubs to win. I think he knows he's a really good player, and I think he knows he can help us win baseball games.”

When asked about Crow-Armstrong throughout this spring, Cubs manager Craig Counsell has been quick to remind that the outfielder is still just 21 years old, too.

“I think Pete's a player that benefits from being on the field and playing,” Counsell said. “He's just got to experience baseball, because he's at a point where stacking up at-bats, stacking up experiences -- defense, on the bases -- they make him a better player. He's at that age where big jumps can still happen. So look, this is the question you get to with a lot of players at this point. And that means their big league product, it's not finished, right? And there's going to be struggles and that part of it.

“I don't know if there's a right decision there. We're going to have to make a decision. And, look, with Pete it's very easy for us to see, there's a thing he does, we know right now, he does very well. And that's what's going to force us to make a decision.”

And Crow-Armstrong has been consistent in his own comments.

Dating back to late last season, and again at Cubs Convention in January, and then throughout this early stage of Spring Training, Crow-Armstrong has made it clear that he wanted Bellinger back with the Cubs. In the immediate wake of the news on Sunday, the young outfielder was ready at his locker, where he reiterated that stance and said the front office “did the right thing.”

“It's a signal that Pete sees the big picture,” Counsell said. “He's able to kind of get outside of himself a little bit. And that's just maturity, really, I think is what it is. Obviously, it’s a sign we really like.”