I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but former top Cubs prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong has been traded to the Guardians. Wait, what’s that? Oh, sorry, I’m being told that MLB Pipeline just put the wrong graphic below PCA’s picture when they rolled out their updated top 100 rankings Thursday night. There are a lot of C logos out there, so I suppose we’ll forgive them.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) January 27, 2023
Either way, the consensus best defensive prospect in the game parlayed his 80-grade glove and supreme athleticism to the No. 28 overall ranking. The only thing keeping him from being even higher on the list is mild concern over an aggressive approach that saw his strikeout and walk rates move in opposite directions following his promotion to High-A South Bend last season.
As I have noted ad nauseam, however, PCA only needs to be an average-ish hitter to put up 4-5 WAR annually in the bigs. He’s got the speed and instincts to swipe 25+ bags and his power could continue to improve to the point where he’s hitting 20+ homers a year. Combine that with elite defense in center and you’ve got the makings of a star.
Moving down nearly 60 spots, we find lanky outfielder Kevin Alcántara at No. 87. Though he won’t turn 21 until July and has just 495 plate appearances above the complex-league level, the Cubs believe in his future enough to have him on the 40-man roster. At 6-foot-6 and a sinewy 190 pounds, no one else in the system can match Alcántara’s pure physical projection. He could be a monster at 215-220 pounds.
Five spots lower sits Brennen Davis, whose outlook has been clouded by injuries and missed time over the last few seasons. The latter issue is much bigger than the former, but it’s impossible for most evaluators to separate the two for reasons that are understandable even if they’re not entirely sound. With only 221 professional games over five years, Davis really needs to have a strong spring and full season to show what he can do.
One other thing to note when it comes to his lower ranking is that he’s now 23 years old, which is moving toward being aged as far as prospects are concerned. Consider that only 27 of the top 100 prospects on the list are 23 or older while 32 are 20 or younger. Taking it a step further, just one of the top 20 prospects is older than 22 while 10 of top 20 are unable to legally purchase alcohol. And that lone “older” prospect, Orioles righty Grayson Rodriguez, just turned 23 in mid-November.
The point is that there’s a lot of subjectivity in these rankings and it’s not super worthwhile to get worked up one way or the other about where a player falls. In the end, all that matters is whether they produce well enough to earn a promotion to Chicago and then what they do in the bigs. The Cubs have done a good job of building a system that has a ton of depth with future contributors even if they don’t have many stars.
So while it’s easy to look at them having just three top-100 prospects — which is actually below-average for what any organization should have — I think the Cubs would look much better on paper if the list expanded to 150 or 200. Not that looking good on paper means a damn thing. Once the season starts, though, I believe Cubs fans are going to be pretty excited about how a lot of players who aren’t being nationally ranked start to jump off the page.