Cubs Prospect Notes: PCA Prediction, Howard and Canario Health, Breakout Options, More

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Cubs Prospect Notes: PCA Prediction, Howard and Canario Health, Breakout Options, More

Chicago Cubs

I have Cubs prospects on the brain today, and thus I love seeing shots from out in Arizona, where prospects are getting to work …

  • I had Cubs outfield prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong on the mind yesterday when I was writing about Matt Mervis as a Rookie of the Year candidate. No, I wasn’t thinking that PCA could realistically leap from High-A to the big leagues so quickly next year that he would be in contention for the award … but it did just kinda tug at me, because that’s exactly what Michael Harris II did last year with the Braves. Harris, 21, started the season at Double-A (after performing reasonably well at High-A the previous year). He played just over 40 games before the Braves decided to bring him straight up to the big leagues to man center field thanks to his offensive upside and high defensive floor. Harris, of course, went on to rake and then win Rookie of the Year honors.
  • Crow-Armstrong, who turns 21 in March, figures to open the season at Double-A Tennessee. Like Harris, he’s a stud defensive center fielder with significant offensive upside. If the Cubs suffered a series of injuries in the outfield, and if other options weren’t ready to go? I wouldn’t call a PCA emergence in the big leagues in 2023 a “realistic” thing, but I would call it “remotely conceivable.”

But if (Brennen) Davis performs well, suddenly giving big money to Happ would seem odd. Yes, Davis could take over at center if Bellinger were to leave after 2023, but that’s a spot Pete Crow-Armstong is expected to take over. With that in mind, part of this prediction is that Crow-Armstrong will be up in the big leagues by September.

It’s a bit aggressive considering the left-handed center fielder only has one full season under his belt and he’s yet to reach Double A. But with the new rules encouraging teams to call up their top prospects at the start of the season, some have started using September as a time to get those prospects — Corbin Carroll, Josh Jung and Triston Casas to name a few — some early playing time while still keeping their rookie status intact.

  • Not a prediction that PCA would be up in time to claim Rookie of the Year honors, but a 2023 call-up is a pretty bold prediction in any event.
  • Speaking of outfielders who may or may not be ready for the big leagues in the second half of 2023 …. Alexander Canario (shoulder and ankle surgeries) is “not anywhere near baseball activities yet,” according to farm director Jared Banner (Des Moines Register), but don’t freak, because we already knew there was no chance he would be. The good news is that the doctors are pleased with Canario’s progress so far, which as good as we can hope for at the moment. You still shouldn’t expect to see Canario back on the field until after the All-Star break, and even then, the re-adjustment (physically and to game action) could be a significant process. I’m not saying we should already plan on 2023 being a lost year, but I do think folks have to keep expectations in serious check, despite his huge breakout last year. Unfortunately. Injuries suck.
  • The Cubs aren’t forgetting about Caleb Kilian after his serious control troubles last year. More from Banner from the DMR: “I just think the main focus with Caleb is just getting his delivery back to a place where it’s been in the past where he’s commanding his pitches at an elite level and using his lower half well,” Banner said. “I expect that coming into camp, he’ll be in a great place.” Kilian, 25, figures to open the season in the Iowa rotation, and since he’s already on the 40-man roster, he’ll be among the call-up options when the Cubs have starting needs throughout the year (though he could be competing for those depth starts with Hayden Wesneski, Adrian Sampson, and Javier Assad, all of whom might get the first crack if healthy).
  • Banner also hopped on 670 The Score recently, and among the best updates: shortstop Ed Howard’s hip is in a good place, he’s starting to hit in the cage, and is expected to be ready for a normal Spring Training. That is AWESOME news, given how bad his hip injury was last year.
  • The road to being a useful big leaguer – much less an impact one – is still pretty darn long for Howard, given that the bat still needed a whole lot of development and now there will be physical questions about his lateral movements at shortstop. I think we have to set that baseline understanding. But this is a guy who is only 20, who is an excellent athlete, who was showing adjustments and improvements from his first to second pro season, and who was challenged with a very aggressive assignment both of his first two years. The Cubs clearly see a whole lot in the former first rounder, so you can still hope on the upside. But like Canario, you have to see the health first and that the baseball ability isn’t eroded in some significant way by the surgery/time away. A normal Spring Training, then, is pretty huge for Howard.
  • A couple young Cubs pitching prospects had a lot of success in Puerto Rico this winter:
  • MLB Pipeline offers up Cade Horton, the Cubs’ 2022 first rounder, as their breakout pick in the system this year. I’d probably go with Daniel Palencia or Kevin Alcántara myself, if I had to choose, but honestly, there are about 10 guys you could make a convincing argument for as the next big leap.
  • Above-slot 13th rounder Luis Rujano getting in work at Instructs, showing off a nice slider for a high school prospect:
  • Bryan was having some super-duper-early fun with a possible Arizona Complex League positional starting lineup for the Cubs come this summer, which could be a group loaded with top DSL prospects coming over (and 2022 third rounder Chris Paciolla):
  • Infield prospect James Triantos getting the video treatment from the Cubs:

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.