Say this for the Cubs, they’ve been willing to experiment, especially at the leadoff position. They haven’t used any batting order more than twice. Eight different players have taken the top spot in this lineup, with Rafael Ortega getting the longest audition. Ortega’s been a flop for 2022, slashing .219/.317/.305, an OPS+ that’s 22 percent below league average.
Maybe Christopher Morel can take a sad song and make it better.
Morel’s started eight of the last nine games on the North Side, getting work as a super-utility player. He’s picked up starts at second base, shortstop, third base, center field. And for the last three games, he’s slotted first in the Chicago lineup.
You can’t take much from 37 plate appearances, but so far, so good. Morel’s off to a .313/.405/.563 start, with two homers and two steals. He’s walked four times. There’s a broad set of skills here. He's also one of the fastest players in the majors; take note of that 94th percentile sprint speed.
To be fair, Morel, 22, wasn’t a prospect before the year. He was underwhelming in the minors last season (.223/.303/.427), though he did provide category juice (18 homers, 18 steals). He’s always had a keen eye at the plate.
The Cubs started Morel in Double-A this year, which underscored his non-prospect status. But a .306/.380/.565 binge over 28 games (seven homers) earned a double promotion, and now he’s carved out a piece of real estate with the big club.
Chicago’s offense looks somewhat bland through the opening quarter of the year. The team is around league average in several stats — average, slugging, wRC+. The best case for a Morel pickup is his spot in the lineup and potential to fill multiple categories. There’s not exactly an undertow here.
That said, versatile players are our jam at Closing Time (Morel will eventually qualify at multiple positions), and we like to be early to any story that offers plausible upside. The Cubs oddly don't play Friday, but then the schedule gets congested, with 11 games in the next nine days.
Morel is rostered in a modest six percent of Yahoo leagues. It's tire-kicking time.