Christopher Morel was a ray of sunshine in a Cubs season darkened by its fair share of clouds, popping 15 more homers after going deep in his first at-bat and exuding a sense of unadulterated joy the whole time. It wasn’t always easy, however, and the 23-year-old slumped down the stretch as pitchers got a book on him and the games piled up. His defense left a lot to be desired as well, though some chalk that up to not having a set position.
Thing is, set positions are going to be even harder to come by with the roster set up the way it is. The only spot open to any competition is third, and the Cubs have roughly 34 players who could see action at the hot corner. Unless the league allows David Ross to implement a fifth infielder to serve as a relay man when Nick Madrigal is at third, Morel is likely to find himself as a utility player once again.
“We’ve got some more established players,” David Ross told reporters. “I think he can bounce around the outfield for us as a fourth outfielder, or could be a utility player. He can play pretty much any infield position besides first. There’s a lot of growth potential there for him.”
In order to make the most of that potential, Morel needs to improve his plate approach to cut down on a 32.3% strikeout rate that spiked to around 38% over the last two months of the season. He’s also got to boost his performance against lefties, against whom he batted just .190 with an 81 wRC+ over 119 plate appearances.
“I just focused on my body this offseason, gaining a little more weight to prepare for the long season ahead,” Morel said via the team’s education coordinator and translator José Menendez. “I focused on understanding home plate. I’m going to try and be as consistent as possible, working to command the plate when I’m at bat.”
Sounds like a mini version of Seiya Suzuki, though the right fielder jokingly cautioned his young teammate about adding too much bulk.
When Christopher Morel saw Seiya Suzuki in camp and noted how bulked up he got, he told Suzuki that next offseason he’s going to get as big as him.
Suzuki advised against it, joking to Morel, “You’re just gonna get slow.” pic.twitter.com/TPXrwiShlZ
— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) February 22, 2023
Morel doesn’t even turn 24 until late June, so there’s no need to slot him into one position or worry about him if he gets off to a slow start. He has plenty of time to keep growing and learning, whether it’s as a jack of all trades in Chicago or in a more defined role at Triple-A Iowa. The big club is the right spot as long as he continues to showcase that blend of power and athleticism, so it’ll just be up to Ross to determine how to best balance Morel’s playing time.
I love what this kid brings to the table and I think he can be a real weapon in a utility role this season and beyond.