Pete Crow-Armstrong resides at the top of pretty much every Cubs prospect list and he’s worked his way into the top 30 on national rankings, due largely to the high ceiling provided by his athleticism and improved offensive output. But make no mistake, it’s the glove that ultimately sets the bar for his future impact in Chicago. Even if PCA is never more than an average hitter — and I think he’ll be better than that — his defense will be among the best in MLB for the next decade or so.
In a recent ranking of the top 10 outfield prospects across the minors, MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis ranked Crow-Armstrong seventh while projecting him for a 2024 debut. The most striking portion of the article came in the Top Tools section, however, because the speedy outfielder was evaluated with an 80-grade fielding tool. For those unfamiliar with the 20-80 scouting scale, that’s the highest you can get.
CATCH OF THE YEAR‼️
— South Bend Cubs (@SBCubs) July 3, 2022
To put it in even better perspective, only eight of 900 ranked prospects last year had as high as a 70-grade fielding tool. We’re not talking good or even great here, we are looking at the very top of the top. And not just among outfielders. Callis noted that Crow-Armstrong “is the consensus best defender in all the Minors [emphasis mine],” which is supported by a recent poll of MLB executives.
Scouts give top-of-the-scale grades to Crow-Armstrong for his center-field skills. He covers a tremendous amount of ground with his combination of plus speed and precise reads and routes, and his solid arm strength also rates better than most players at his position.
I want to reiterate here just how special Crow-Armstrong can be, because it seems like a lot of folks are still harboring skepticism about his 24% strikeout rate and paltry 4.9% walk rate at High-A South Bend last season. While those would be valid concerns if we were talking about a player who really needed to max out his offense, that’s simply not the case for PCA. Besides, he hit nine homers and carried a 125 wRC+ for the SB Cubs.
The same elite body control, or kinesthetic awareness, that allows him to make plays in center that should only be possible with CGI will help him to make adjustments at the plate. His speed will help him beat out dribblers, get an extra base on tweener hits, and go first to third with ease. To borrow from Michael Jordan, the ceiling is the roof from a physical standpoint.
Then there’s the swagger that toes the line of cockiness to the point that he might even dangle a foot over it with a devilish grin that tells you he knows exactly how good he is. And while you’re busy either cursing or admiring that supreme confidence, probably a little of both, he’ll take advantage of your momentary lapse in focus. Crow-Armstrong is like water or smoke, able to flow effortlessly through the smallest openings and take the shape of whatever vessel attempts to contain him before eventually escaping it.
I don’t even care if this all seems hyperbolic because I’m not sure it’s possible to overstate just how freakishly good this kid — he doesn’t turn 21 until March — can be. All I know is that it’s going to be really fun to see him patrolling Wrigley Field in the not-so-distant future. In the meantime, you might want to get down to Tennessee at some point this season.