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‘A consistent presence’: How rookie Michael Busch quickly won over the Cubs

2 months agoTony Andracki

When you ask Cubs players and coaches about Michael Busch, they all use one word:

Consistent.

The 26-year-old is getting his first true runway in the big leagues after sporadic playing time in his debut season with the Dodgers a year ago.

And in the early going, he has impressed his new team.

“Super consistent at-bats,” Ian Happ said of Busch.

“The at-bats are so, so consistent,” Nico Hoerner said.

“I think Michael is going to be a consistent presence,” manager Craig Counsell said.

The Cubs acquired Busch from the Dodgers in a January trade that sent pitching prospect Jackson Ferris to Los Angeles.

Busch is a top prospect in his own right, ranked as a Top 100 prospect entering 2024 by Baseball America (No. 43), MLB Pipeline (51) and Baseball Prospectus (71).

Last season, he was the Dodgers’ minor league player of the year while putting up monster numbers in Triple-A: .323/.431/.618 slash line (1.049 OPS) with 27 homers and 90 RBI in 98 games.

He just never got much of an opportunity in a loaded Dodgers lineup and with Shohei Ohtani signing this past offseason to fill the DH role full-time, the L.A. front office deemed him expendable.

The Cubs jumped at the opportunity to acquire a potential breakout player who filled several needs on their roster — a left-handed hitter with power who can play first base.

While it is still very early in the season, Busch has already proven he has been worth the gamble.

“I think it’s gone just the way we’ve hoped,” Counsell said. “His at-bats have carried over — it’s felt very similar coming out of Spring Training and what he’s done the first [two weeks] of the season.”

As for his consistency, Counsell believes that’s simply in Busch’s DNA.

“This is just a makeup thing of who he is,” Counsell said. “And it’s swing characteristics. He’s just got a solid foundation and that is what let him produce at such a high level and do all those things well at the highest level of the minor leagues.

“It’s a very solid foundation to be a hitter and that should even out the natural ups and downs a bit.”

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The Cubs handed Busch a regular role at first base, at least against right-handed pitching.

He has rewarded them with a .270/.364/.486 slash line (.850 OPS), including his first home run and a 3-run double in the pair of wins over his former team last weekend at Wrigley Field. He homered again Wednesday in San Diego, a 2-run shot that traveled 405 feet and provided the Cubs’ only offense in a 10-2 loss.

“The opportunity means a lot,” Busch said. “Try not to take it for granted. You can get caught up in the season sometimes but you still get to put a Major League Baseball uniform on each and every day. And it’s an honor that I don’t take very lightly.

“I try to show up and play hard every day for them. That’s something I’ll do for the rest of my career.”

When Busch has started, he has most often slotted into the 6th spot in the Cubs batting order, behind Dansby Swanson and Christopher Morel with Hoerner hitting behind Busch.

From the on-deck circle in the first couple weeks of the season, Hoerner actually believes Busch has been unlucky so far and believes even stronger production is coming for the rookie.

“All those close takes and just seeing him go about his work, even before getting results,” Hoerner said. “The at-bats are so consistent. A lot of hard-hit balls. Hadn’t been rewarded a lot yet.”

Happ echoed the same sentiment.

“The consistency of the at-bats have looked really good,” Happ said. “Plate discipline, swing at the right pitches — [the results] will work itself out.”

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