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Pete Crow-Armstrong Continues To Make Strong First Impression For Cubs

Pete Crow Armstrong (Larry Kave, Myrtle Beach Pelicans)
Pete Crow-Armstrong (Larry Kave, Myrtle Beach Pelicans)

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C.—Of all the prospects the Cubs acquired at last year’s trade deadline, none came in higher regard than Pete Crow-Armstrong.

The 19th overall pick in the 2020 draft by the Mets, Crow-Armstrong played only six games in his pro debut last year before he suffered a season-ending labrum tear in his right shoulder sliding headfirst into third base. Despite the fact he was out for the season, the Cubs still acquired him at the deadline as the lone player in exchange for Javier Baez and Trevor Williams.

Crow-Armstrong had to wait another eight months to make his Cubs organizational debut after the trade. Now that he’s back on the field, he’s showing he was worth the wait.

Crow-Armstrong went a combined 4-for-7 with three runs scored out of the leadoff spot to lead Low-A Myrtle Beach to a doubleheader sweep of Columbia (Royals) on Wednesday night. The 20-year-old center fielder is now batting .360/.475/.580 with six extra-base hits and seven steals in his first 13 games as a member of the Cubs organization. He has as many walks (eight) as strikeouts and has been particularly hot of late, going 11-for-20 (.550) in his last five games.

“My body feels great,” said Crow-Armstrong, the Cubs No. 5 prospect. “No little hitches, no little kinks, nothing. But I think there’s a lot of work to be done still. There’s a lot of strength to get back. For a while my swing didn’t really feel like my swing and I’m still trying to figure that out too, but I’m giving it time.”

Crow-Armstrong had surgery performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles last May and was rehabbing at the Mets’ spring training complex in St. Lucie, Fla. when he received word he’d been traded. He packed up everything in two days and reported to the Cubs spring training complex in Mesa, Ariz. to continue his rehab through the winter.

Immediately, Crow-Armstrong took to the Cubs methods. They had him track pitches in the cage even when he wasn’t cleared to swing yet, helping him stay sharp and comfortable in the batter’s box.

The results are playing out now. Despite the fact he hadn’t seen live pitching in an official game in nearly a year, Crow-Armstrong has been productive at the plate from the outset.

“I feel like that set me up real well because I didn’t feel like 90 looked all that fast or the strike zone didn’t feel huge,” Crow-Armstrong said. “I felt like I was pretty aware of where I was in the box and everything like that.

“I think the Cubs have a lot of coaches and coordinators that are really good at like, the little details. It’s not just about your swing all the time. Getting us in and tracking pitches and all that stuff, it plays a part in everything you see out here for sure.”

Crow-Armstrong is known best for his graceful, fluid defense in center field that has led to predictions of multiple Gold Gloves in his future. While he acknowledged he still feels most comfortable on defense, it’s been his presence in the batter’s box that has made the loudest initial impressions on Myrtle Beach’s coaching staff.

“He’s done really well swinging the bat,” Myrtle Beach manager Buddy Bailey said. “Overall for a guy with as few professional at-bats as he’s got, he’s actually got a really good eye at the plate. He’s disciplined and his at-bats aren’t any different if it's nobody on or if it's runners in scoring position. A lot of guys get carried away and excited in the box depending on the RBI situation. He’s pretty much calm and under control all the time.”

Perhaps the most promising aspect of all is Crow-Armstrong is doing all this when he’s not even completely back to full strength yet. While he’s swinging without restriction and playing without fear in center field— “I’m always down to go into the wall. That’s my place out there,” he said—he is still building strength in his shoulder and has about another month remaining until he’s officially 100%.

“The people that have had the same surgery as I have, the people I’ve been able to talk to about it, they’ve all said you don’t’ feel like yourself for a year or so,” Crow-Armstrong said. “If that’s the case, then I’m cool with that. I’m just going to continue to take it day by day. I feel great right now and I’m doing what I can with what I got.”

That doesn’t mean it’s all been smooth sailing. Crow-Armstrong acknowledged he’s committed what he called “brain farts” multiple times on the basepaths this year, largely due to rust from lack of gameplay. He also cited a desire to increase his stolen base numbers, refine his strike-zone awareness and prove he’s not just a “defense-first player”, in his words, as goals he’s still working towards.

But most of all, his main goal is to show he can stay healthy and productive over a full season. With the ability he’s showing already, doing so will only further solidify his place as a cornerstone of the Cubs rebuild.

“I mean, I don’t know jack about what a real season’s like,” Crow-Armstrong said. “I think for me that’s my thing. I think I’m taking it day by day. Not knowing what a full season is like, I just want to be healthy as much of it as I can. My real goal is just to enjoy my first real season and enjoy my time back on the field. It’s an awesome group of guys to do it with and a great organization to do it in.”

Pete Crow Armstrong Photo By David Durochik Diamond Images Via Getty Images

Podcast: Top 100 Prospect Risers

Kyle Glaser and JJ Cooper look at prospects who made the biggest leap on the new BA Top 100 Prospects update.

NEWS AND NOTES

— Cubs No. 12 prospect James Triantos went 5-for-6 with a double and three RBIs across both games of the doubleheader to continue his recent surge. After going 4-for-36 to begin the season, the 19-year-old third baseman is now 13-for-24 in his last six games after making adjustments to his lower half in his swing.

“Well he was pulling off the ball,” Bailey said. “It was a lot of his bottom half was vacating, which was making him drag and do a lot of other things you would consider wrong. Now that he’s slowed down his bottom half, not (being) so rotational, it’s keeping his swing through the zone and letting the head get out instead of the hands leading, which you do when your bottom half goes. Now he’s getting the head out and hitting the ball with authority to all fields. This started 3-4 days ago once he really realized what he was doing with the bottom half and it’s helped correct a lot of things from the feet all the way to the head now.”

Triantos now has multiple hits in five of his last six games. He has raised his batting average from .111 to .283 in that stretch.

— Cubs 2020 fourth-round pick Luke Little started Game 2 on the mound for Myrtle Beach and had the best outing of his young career. The 6-foot-8, 220-pound lefthander pitched three perfect innings with six strikeouts, showcasing a 96-98 mph fastball and 79-81 mph slider that consistently got swings and misses.

Most importantly, he threw strikes. Little has long battled well below-average control but threw 21 of 34 pitches for strikes in the outing.

"He's got a great arm. His delivery hasn’t been consistent,” Bailey said. “Today was the best game that he’s had because to me he held his delivery for the whole three innings and he didn’t throw that many pitches even though he was getting a lot of strikeouts. That tells you how good his command was and the stuff he brought.”

That Little held his delivery better wasn’t a coincidence. After his last outing, Bailey and the Pelicans coaching staff challenged Little to improve his conditioning. Little responded and delivered his best outing yet.

“He hadn’t been putting in, in all honesty, busting as hard as he can in his conditioning and all,” Bailey said. “When he came out today I commended him and said that extra work and effort you’re putting in is going to help you get in better shape, which in turn you can hold your balance and everything. And that’s what he was able to do and repeat his delivery. Before he couldn’t repeat his delivery.”

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