Cubs’ top three prospects setting different spring-training goals in big-league camp

The Cubs’ top three prospects are outfielders, and they’re all in major-league camp.

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Cubs prospect Kevin Alcántara talks to reporters at the team’s spring training facility in Mesa, Arizona,

Cubs prospect Kevin Alcántara talks to reporters at the team’s spring training facility in Mesa, Arizona,

John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times

MESA, Ariz. — Cubs outfield prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong found veteran right-hander Marcus Stroman at his locker after live batting practice. He was happy with his swings overall, but he wanted to pick Stroman’s brain about a cutter he had fouled off his back foot.

‘‘Just being a sponge,’’ Crow-Armstrong, who will turn 21 next month, said of his goals this spring. ‘‘I want to leave here feeling like I’m wiser for it, better for it.’’

The Cubs’ top three prospects are outfielders, and they’re all in big-league camp. Crow-Armstrong is a non-roster invitee. The Cubs added Brennen Davis and Kevin Alcantara to their 40-man roster in November to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. Because of their ages, roster statuses and development trajectories, they’re all taking different approaches this spring.

‘‘I’m not out here not to make a team,’’ Davis said. ‘‘I’m out here to compete and give them a tough choice to make at the end of spring. And that’s all I can do.’’

Davis, 23, was expected to make his major-league debut last season, but back surgery in June altered his timeline. He returned for the last month of the Triple-A season, then headed to the Arizona Fall League to make up for lost at-bats. After five AFL games, however, a stress reaction in his back sidelined him again.

‘‘I wasn’t at a point where I was strong enough to really endure that kind of length of a season,’’ Davis said. ‘‘And it caught up to me. And I think it was good to take a step back and really not let that hinder my offseason. Because the outlook was for 2023. Those [AFL] at-bats weren’t going to do anything other than just develop me. So I wanted to be healthy going into this year, and I think I made the right choice.”

Davis said he’s up to between 215 and 218 pounds.

‘‘I would definitely say this is my heaviest,’’ he said, ‘‘and I’m still putting up my speed numbers. So I’m in a good spot.’’

The starting spots in the Cubs’ outfield are claimed by left fielder Ian Happ, center fielder Cody Bellinger and right fielder Seiya Suzuki. But the bench will make for an intriguing battle. It’s unclear how many outfielders the Cubs will carry into the season, as opposed to utility players who also can play multiple infield positions.

‘‘I know when my time is called, I’m gonna be ready — whether that’s now or in a month or in two months or whenever,’’ Davis said. ‘‘I’m going to do whatever I can to be the best version of myself.’’

Alcantara, 20, has taken note of the focus Davis brings to the park and said he has learned from working alongside him.

‘‘I’m just super-excited, super-proud of where I’ve been and what’s to come,’’ Alcantara said through an interpreter of his first big-league camp.

Alcantara has picked up adjustments quickly. His swing already looks more direct to the ball compared to a year ago, when the Cubs made simplifying his mechanics a priority. He hit 15 home runs last season at Single-A Myrtle Beach and hit .291 in August and September.

‘‘My focus over the offseason has been really to just get stronger and get faster,’’ Alcantara said.

Building up the strength to be able to hold up — eventually — through a full major-league season will be key for his progression through the farm system.

The Cubs might have set outfield starters now, but Bellinger is expected to test free agency after the season. And if the Cubs can’t agree on a contract extension with Happ, he’ll be in the same boat.

This week, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts praised president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer for adding talent this offseason without ‘‘blocking future talent.’’

‘‘Because we have a lot of good guys coming over the next few years, we want to make sure that there’s opportunities for them when they’re ready,’’ Ricketts said.

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