If you didn’t know prior to Tuesday night why Brennen Davis refers to Christopher Morel as “The Electric Factory,” you sure as hell do now. The rookie, who bears a passing resemblance to Francisco Lindor in terms of both his appearance and his flair, had the entire Cubs bench on the top step of the dugout as he dug in for his first MLB at-bat.
Falling quickly into an 0-2 hole didn’t portend success, but three bad misses by righty Chase De Jong put Morel right back ahead. And just like Vitter in Rounders, the rookie caught a hanger of a four-seam fastball that came in at 92 mph and went out with a good deal more velocity. The ball nearly reached Waveland at what Statcast says was 111.3 mph, though I swear the lightning-powered blast exceeded the speed of sound.
That’s the only way I can explain everything going silent for the split-second it took that Rawlings-stamped sphere — apparently not one of them with mashed potatoes in the center — to create a vapor trail to the bleachers.
Fueled in part by a crowd that was in full throat once the count ran full and perhaps even more so by his own confident boast to Willson Contreras the previous inning, Morel was so fired up he almost forgot to touch first base on the way by. As he explained after the game, Morel had told Contreras — who was clearly the head cheerleader during the entire affair — that he was going to match the catcher’s feat of homering in his first at-bat.
That was 99 homers ago for Contreras, who may take a little pleasure in reminding his young teammate that he needed five fewer pitches to put his stamp on the league.
“I’ve known this guy for a really long time, and he makes me proud,” Contreras said after the game. “It was amazing. He told me [he would hit a home run], and I felt like he was going to get something done. But I was thinking of a base hit. Just a base hit. Just blooper. Just something positive.”
Positivity has been Morel’s calling card in the minors and his infectious enthusiasm has made him a favorite teammate at each of his stops. He’s also had a chance to get to know the big leaguers at spring training over the last two years as a member of the 40-man roster. His performance, however, had not been as uplifting as his attitude.
Some of that can be chalked up to the lost pandemic season, which came when he was 21 at what may have otherwise represented a real springboard for him. Coming off of a season in which he batted .284 with a .359 wOBA and 124 wRC+, Morel was unable to build upon his improvements and saw his numbers get wonky when minor league baseball returned in 2021.
He’s been able to rebound quite nicely this season, parlaying that incredible bat speed to a .306 average, .408 wOBA, and 149 wRC+ through 122 Double-A plate appearances. Oh, and that big homer Tuesday night.
“I can’t even describe this moment, for me it’s amazing,” Morel told Marquee’s Taylor McGregor. “I want to say thank you to my family, my country for this moment.”
There will be plenty more big moments for the versatile young spark plug, but he may have a wait a little longer to create them on an everyday basis. He came up to replace Jason Heyward, who was placed on the IL due to COVID, or so we can deduce from the lack of an injury designation, and the Cubs are currently getting less than stellar play from their middle infielders, but that will change before long.
This feels like one of those moves where the organization is rewarding great performance with a brief promotion, and Morel was an easy choice because he’s already on the 40-man. That could mean he’ll be back in Tennessee or perhaps even Iowa once Heyward or Nico Hoerner can get back to active duty, but Morel won’t be too far away and should get another crack at Chicago in the second half.
Or maybe, and this feels like a longshot, the 22-year-old will force the Cubs to keep him up by clearing a spot somehow. Whatever ends up happening, Morel authored one of the more memorable moments of the season to date, and probably of the whole year barring some amazing developments. Considering the hot streak the Cubs are on following a nauseating stretch of listless play, maybe he should change his last name to More-W.