Christopher Morel's Diligence Is Rewarded
Third baseman Christopher Morel's growth and diligence at the alternate training site in South Bend, Ind., helped the Cubs make a more informed decision at a time of uncertainty.
The Cubs added Morel to their 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, even though his entire professional career consists of 188 games, none above the Midwest League.
But the 2015 international signee from the Dominican Republic performed at low Class A South Bend in 2019—batting .284/.320/.467 in 73 games—before his season was cut short in July due to left knee bursitis.
The 21-year-old Morel benefited from being around older players like Hernan Perez and Jose Lobaton and learning about daily routines. The alternate site also allowed the 6-foot, 140-pound Morel to face pitchers with advanced skills and work directly with some of the organization’s instructors.
“Chris took advantage of the opportunity every day,” Cubs assistant director of baseball development Jeremy Farrell said. “You could really see Chris take ownership of his career.
"He’s the kind of guy who you have to run out of the cage or run off the field. He always wants extra ground balls. He always wants extra swings. He’s the one out shagging in the outfield for someone else’s extra BP.”
Farrell helped run the South Bend camp, which also featured outfielder Brennen Davis, another prospect the Cubs added to their 60-man player pool for the exposure and a chance to keep working this summer.
The Cubs challenged Morel, who has primarily been used as a third baseman, to play second base and also gave him additional work in the outfield, which could open up more possibilities in the future.
“We’re going to try and keep him as versatile as possible right now,” Farrell said. “He’s still growing and you can see the body transformations he’s made over the last few years.
"As he matures, that may dictate a little bit where he ends up. But the athleticism is there, the aptitude is there, to play in a couple different spots on the diamond.”
— As Jed Hoyer replaces Theo Epstein and takes over baseball operations at Wrigley Field, look for Craig Breslow and Dan Kantrovitz to gain even more influence. Breslow and Kantrovitz were prominently involved in the restructuring of scouting and player development after the 2019 season. Hoyer gave a glowing assessment of what the Cubs accomplished at the South Bend training site.
“There’s no substitute for playing 140 games in the minor leagues,” Hoyer said. “That’s obviously the best way to develop players. But in this odd year, I think all improvement was kind of relative. If you were improving more relative to your competition, I think you really gained. I have no question that we made significant gains over our competition this year. We’re definitely on the right track with the right people.”
— Chris Valaika—who earned praise for his work with prospects like Davis while serving as the organization’s minor league hitting coordinator—has been promoted to assistant hitting coach on David Ross’ big league staff.