It’s just about impossible to choose the Chicago Cubs’ minor league player of the year for 2022. Even if you managed to whittle it down to two prospects, choosing between Matt Mervis and Pete Crow-Armstrong is a coin flip if I’ve ever seen one.
I tend to think the Cubs will wind up giving the award to Mervis, for his overall performance this year – it’s just otherworldly – where some outside evaluators will probably give it to PCA because of his dramatic leaps in prospect standing (and, again, he had a huge year, too).
Baseball America, for example. They just announced that the Cubs Minor League Player of the Year honor goes to Pete Crow-Armstrong.
On the season, which was his first full professional season and was split between Low-A Myrtle Beach and High-A South Bend, PCA has hit .312/.376/.520/145 wRC+, while playing at just 20 years old and showing off his plus-plus glove in center field.
These kinds of catches were almost routine for him:
Even before we get into full rankings updates this offseason, it’s pretty clear that Crow-Armstrong is a consensus top 50 prospect in the game at this point, and will probably get some top 30 love from some publications.
Among other things, the Baseball America piece notes how hard PCA worked on what would become his new swing even before he was able to get back out there after shoulder surgery last year:
When the center fielder wasn’t performing shoulder strengthening exercises, he was watching videos of his swing.
“Not swinging a bat for so long helped me re-feel my swing, and there were some new things implemented,” Crow-Armstrong said. “It’s all about constantly refining what you got.
“So I think that was an opportunity for me to take a few steps back, break it down a little bit. And once I felt good and my shoulder felt comfortable, just be able to continue to refine what I got.”
The changes, which included keeping his barrel in the hitting zone longer and adjusting his hands, added another dimension to the 20-year-old’s game—power ….
“He worked very hard with (hitting coaches) Rachel Folden, Dustin Kelly and Justin Stone in Arizona,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said. “His exit velocity is up by almost three miles per hour from where it had been.”
We heard a lot about that work at the time, and PCA was getting that behind-the-scenes hype in December and January. But, of course, we’ve heard that stuff before, and it’s not always the case that the player ultimately shows it off when the games begin. For PCA, he didn’t just show off his improvements, he exploded so much that it made the Mets terrified to trade with the Cubs again.
It was a great scouting and player development win for the Cubs, but of course, most of the credit goes to Pete Crow-Armstrong, himself. What a season. A well-deserved honor.
We’ll see PCA playing tonight in Game Two of South Bend’s opening postseason series tonight, and hopefully he’ll be able to help the Cubs win another Midwest League title. From there, it’s probably some rest, and then back to the grind of offseason work, with an eye on Double-A Tennessee in early 2023.