Prospect trio makes for promising outfield future

March 10th, 2023

MESA, Ariz. -- After the final out of the Cubs' game against Team Canada earlier this week, Chicago's three outfielders jogged to shallow center field. The trio wrapped their arms around each other's shoulders for a quick game-ending embrace before heading to the handshake line.

That moment at Sloan Park was a potential look at the future of the Cubs' outfield. The group consisted of Pete Crow-Armstrong in center field, Brennen Davis joining from left and Kevin Alcántara heading over from right.

"We've got big things happening around here," Crow-Armstrong said earlier this spring.

Prior to Friday's 4-3 Cactus League loss against the White Sox, the Cubs made the long-expected decision to send their top three prospects back to the Minor League side of camp. Crow-Armstrong (No. 1) was reassigned to Minor League camp, while Alcántara (No. 2) and Davis (No. 3) were optioned to High-A South Bend and Triple-A Iowa, respectively.

Chicago's Major League outfield is already set with a group of experienced big leaguers holding down jobs. The kids' time will eventually arrive, and perhaps as soon as this season for someone like Davis.

"I know when my time is called, I'm going to be ready," Davis said earlier this spring. "Whether that's now or in a month or two months, or whatever, I'm going to do whatever I can to be the best version of myself."

Before that call comes, Davis will be using this season to cement the fact that he has moved beyond last year's health setbacks. After a breakout showing in '21 -- highlighted by being named the MVP of the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game -- Davis was limited to 53 games in ‘22 due to a midseason back procedure.

Davis reported to Spring Training with no limitations and said he was still posting his typical speed numbers, even with a heavier frame from an offseason of strength training. He hoped to push for an Opening Day roster spot, but he will start this season among the top next-man-up candidates.

"He’s just trying to continue to get back to playing every single day and get a full season under his belt," Cubs manager David Ross said earlier this spring. "Just let him get the at-bats, continue to get that seasoning, and try to help us in some way this year."

Davis was a second-round pick by the Cubs in the 2018 MLB Draft, while Crow-Armstrong and Alcántara were reeled in as part of the club's wave of blockbuster trades in ‘21. Crow-Armstrong came from the Mets in the Javier Báez deal, and Alcántara was sent by the Yankees in the Anthony Rizzo trade.

All three players are center fielders, but Crow-Armstrong already projects to be elite at that position. During the Cubs' recent Cactus League game against the Rangers, he made an outstanding catch that Ross said "brought me up out of my seat."

Last season, the 20-year-old Crow-Armstrong turned in a .312/.376/.520 slash line in 101 games between Single-A Myrtle Beach and High-A South Bend. The lefty-swinging outfielder piled up 16 homers, 20 doubles, 10 triples, 61 RBIs, 89 runs and 32 steals.

"You've heard a lot of great things," Ross said. "There's a lot still left for him to learn and develop in areas, but it's nice to see real replacements at times come in in these games, and you feel like there's real talent there. It's fun to watch him play."

The 20-year-old Alcántara is a 6-foot-6 outfielder who boasts power, speed and an energetic personality. He showed up to big league camp sporting a flashy chain with "The Jaguar" inlaid in the pendant.

"My teammates gave me the nickname," Alcantara said via translator earlier in camp. "I've taken it and run with it. I feel like it's really applicable of who I am and how I play."

In Major League camp, Alcántara -- still with room to grow in his frame -- was posting some of the highest exit velocities behind the scenes. Now, he will look to build on last season, when he hit .273/.360/.451 with 15 homers, 19 doubles and 85 RBIs in 112 games for Myrtle Beach.

"It's really emotional for me to be part of this and just to take part and be part of the big league camp," Alcántara said. "I know that I have big shoes to fill, but I'm working hard."

Maybe their individual paths will converge at Wrigley Field at some point in the future. Davis said he and Crow-Armstrong have already started dreaming about that type of moment.

"Yeah, we talk about it all the time," Davis said. "Him in center, me in the corner or vice versa -- it doesn’t matter. We're both here to help the Cubs win. That's all we care about."