Cubs Should Give Canario a Shot In September
A little over a year ago, Alex Canario was a relatively unknown, hard-hitting outfielder struggling to find success in the organization of the San Francisco Giants. But the right had tools, or so the Chicago Cubs thought when they acquired him alongside starting pitcher Caleb Kilian in the 2021 Kris Bryant deal.
The Cubs are obviously banking on making the most of Canario’s impressive power punch and maybe getting more out of his striking tool. The results weren’t immediately visible for the right-hander, as he still only managed an 84 wRC+ and an on-base percentage well under .300 with the High-A South Bend Cubs to finish the season.
A rough first impression coupled with the breakout of Caleb Kilian in the Arizona Fall League made Canario an afterthought, but he was quick to remind people of the player he could be at the start of the 2022 season.
The 22-year-old started out at South Bend, where he worked his pitching fast and managed a .944 OPS in just 24 games before being promoted to Double-A Tennessee for the first time in his career.
The Dominican native has responded well, posting a 121 wRC+ in his first 332 plate appearances, but that doesn’t tell the whole story of how impressive Canario has been in the Smokies.
The jump from high-A to double-A is always a big one that many players struggle with initially, and Canario was no different, struggling in his first 20 games as he adjusted to life in Tennessee. However, as the outfielder became more established, the results were stunning.
Prior to August 18, in the previous 50 power-hitter games, he was coming in very good 12.7% of his plate appearances, striking out only 22.5% of the time, and had a .368 on-base percentage, a slugging percentage of over .600 and 144 wRC+.
That stretch, which accounts for almost two-thirds of his time with the Smokies, is probably exactly what the Cubs were hoping for in outfield development. His contact and walking frequencies have increased, and the contact quality has not decreased either.
On August 18, Canario had an ISO of 0.293 and a flyball rate of 42.3%, both key metrics important to harnessing the immense power of the right-hander. Combine all of that with his improving contact rates, and it’s hard to argue that the former international free agent might not be major league ready just yet.
But why call the outfielder in September? There will certainly be other candidates like Darius Hill, or maybe even Jackson Frazier will get another run, but Canario could have a leg up for a few reasons.
For one, the Cubs have shown their willingness for players to skip Triple-A this season with Chris Morel and Brandon Hughes both having more than held their own. Another reason is Canario already has a 40-man squad spot, making him less complicated to call than some of the other candidates.
Finally, and probably most importantly, the Cubs No. 9 prospect about the MLB pipeline just being up for the opportunity. The fielder has simply poked fun at minor league pitching this season and doesn’t have much else to prove.
Many players have made a successful Double-A to MLB jump in the league this year, and Canario has what it takes to be a part of that list. The Cubs would be wise to give him a dry run in September.