Jed Hoyer and the Cubs have sky-high marks for Pete Crow-Armstrong despite demotion

Pete Crow-Armstrong was sent back down to Triple-A Iowa, but he made a strong impression on Chicago Cubs President Jed Hoyer, who firmly believes he can become a fixture on the team.
San Diego Padres v Chicago Cubs
San Diego Padres v Chicago Cubs / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

The Chicago Cubs made a flurry of roster moves Monday night, bringing Luis Vázquez to the majors and pulling Dansby Swanson off the injured list. Unfortunately for the team's top prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong, the shuffle also sent him back to Triple-A alongside utility man Miles Mastrobuoni. Considering the value PCA brought to the team in his most recent stint, it's a questionable decision, but Jed Hoyer sees it as the right call to prepare him for a successful big-league career.

Crow-Armstrong didn't hit much in the majors, but he performed markedly better than his cup of coffee with the Cubs last year. He posted a slash line of .236/.295/.364, good for an 89 wRC+ with a home run for good measure. There were major signs of improvement too, as he made far more contact on pitches in the zone (75.8% compared to just 48.5%) and a vastly lowered whiff rate of 23.7%. Moreover, he paired that with his stellar glove which already earned him 3 outs above average and 6 defensive runs saved, placing him in the Top 20 of all fielders in DRS with a minimum of 150 innings in the field.

On top of everything, PCA was making better baserunning decisions, something he struggled with last year. The improvements were not lost on Hoyer, who, despite the tough decision to send him down, was effusive in his praise of the 22-year-old center fielder during a conversation with 670 the Score on Tuesday.

"I thought it was really positive. First of all, I thought on the defensive side, he’s going to be a Gold Glove-quality center fielder. I think you can already rank him among the top center fielders. You see how easy he makes hard plays look. These plays are 85%, 90% hit probabilities and he makes the play chest-high or head-high. It makes it look pretty simple. So that’s a lot of fun to watch. I thought his decision-making in general was better."

Jed Hoyer, Audacy Sports Chicago

Despite all the positivity, the decision to send Crow-Armstrong came down mostly to one factor - consistent playing time. Now that each of the Cubs' outfielders is healthy again and Mike Tauchman is still hitting more consistently, it's been harder for the young lefty to find a spot in the lineup. There's an argument that he deserves more runway, especially with Michael Busch struggling and Cody Bellinger able to play first base, but Craig Counsell seemingly hasn't seen PCA as the best option lately.

Hoyer understands that the bat still leaves a lot to be desired. For all the defensive and baserunning value he brings, it may be more beneficial for him to build on the tweaks he made against major league pitching in the minors. After all, Crow-Armstrong wasn't exactly locked in when he was called up in the first place - .203/.241/.392/55 wRC+ in 158 plate appearances.

Pete Crow-Armstrong has transformed himself in Jed Hoyer's eyes

The day when PCA becomes a regular contributor could be close at hand if Hoyer's sentiments are to be believed. He was especially impressed with the center fielder's ability to keep up with major league pitching and, while he still has a major chase issue - he swung at 42.5% of pitches outside the zone this year with the Cubs - Hoyer thought he was a fundamentally different and more complete player. "I thought this stint looked nothing like last year, which is fantastic," he added. "I thought he looked like someone that has a chance to help us for a long time."

Crow-Armstrong's glove has been big league-ready for a while now and the baserunning decisions have been massively cleaned up. As has been the case, all that's left is to get locked in with the bat and prove he can swing it as a starter with the Cubs. With a vote of confidence from Hoyer, it feels like this minor league stint won't be nearly as long for the electrifying prospect.