There it is. The first early minor league free agent target for the Cubs: former Reds prospect Narciso Crook.
The 26-year-old outfielder announced the signing on his Instagram:
View this post on Instagram
Crook never had a chance to emerge as a “top” prospect in the Reds’ organization thanks to consecutive early-season-ending injuries in each of 2016 and 2017. That put him behind the eight ball, but he managed to put together reasonably strong offensive campaigns in 2018 and 2019 as he climbed to Triple-A. I’m not entirely sure why he started the post-pandemic season back at Double-A, but he performed there as well, and was back at Triple-A to close out this past season. Clearly the Reds didn’t think he was worth a 40-man roster spot at this time, which allowed him to hit free agency, where he was a quick sign by the Cubs.
As you can see in his numbers, there’s a lotta hard contact, but also a lotta strikeouts:
Crook bats righty and is a true corner outfielder, so this looks to be a signing where the Cubs simply felt they could get a whole lot out of the bat if they could get him into their system. As we’ve seen, they’ve certainly had some recent success on that front, and even if the fit is not ideal, sometimes you just take the guy that’s available and deal with the fit later.
Crook has also been playing the last couple years in the Dominican Winter League, and performing very well (which is often a good indicator, because the league is very competitive), but the sample is very small. He had a particularly big game there last year:
Narciso Crook became the 9th player EVER in the history of LIDOM to hit 3 homers in a single game tonight.
Before tonight he had ZERO career LIDOM homers.
Awesome guy, great story, shouts out to the dude @ThatOutfielder
— Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) December 23, 2020
Reds prospect Narciso Crook in his last 50 games and 168 plate appearances is hitting .308/.405/.587 (.992 OPS) with 9 HRs, 32 RBIs, .426 wOBA, and a 163 wRC+. Here’s a Walk Off HR he hit the other night in the playoffs that went close to 450 ft
— Brandon (@DaWink33) September 26, 2021
— Louisville Bats (@LouisvilleBats) October 5, 2021
Seems like a really good dude, too:
I think anyone who has known Narciso Crook would tell you he is that same person you described, all the time. You meet a lot of people in the game, and you meet a few who are just the gold standard. That’s @ThatOutfielder https://t.co/whULK8mUXN
— Tom Nichols (@TomNichols02) October 25, 2021
I thought I’d share this real quick. Recently saw a friend who’s battling mental illness post something online and it really froze me. I challenge you guys to share positivity across your social media platforms to help some people who are struggling get through these hard times. pic.twitter.com/6UFvlBPSvi
— Narciso Crook (@ThatOutfielder) April 11, 2020
The only rub with this signing is that it probably dampens the Cubs’ chances at landing former Cardinals prospect Nick Plummer, since, if you’re him, you are slightly less likely to look at the Cubs’ Triple-A outfield situation as a clear and obvious path toward getting onto the big league team. The big league outfield still has jobs to win, to be sure, but now the Triple-A outfield could include all of Brennen Davis, Nelson Velazquez, Greg Deichmann, Jared Young, and Crook (not to mention Michael Hermosillo, who is out of options but currently on the 40-man and could conceivably wind up outrighted to Iowa at the end of Spring Training).