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Cubs’ infield depth takes hit with injury to third baseman

2 weeks agoAndy Martinez

The Cubs’ third base depth took a hit Thursday — before they even played.

Nick Madrigal suffered a fractured left hand. Madrigal was hit by a 97-mph pitch in the 4th inning of the Iowa Cubs’ loss on Wednesday. It was his first game with the I-Cubs after being optioned earlier this week. Madrigal was 1-for-1 with a walk and an RBI double before the injury.

The 27-year-old had struggled this season in limited playing time — he was hitting .221 with a .535 OPS and 3 extra-base hits and was really only being used as a defensive replacement late in games for Christopher Morel at the hot corner. That led the Cubs to send him down to Triple-A with the hopes of settling into an offensive groove with consistent playing time and bringing up David Bote.

Those aspirations will now be put on hold with Madrigal out of the mix. Morel’s defensive output has been underwhelming this season — he ranks last among qualified third basemen in fielding percentage, Outs Above Average and Defensive Runs Saved. Manager Craig Counsell admitted the Cubs are still evaluating Morel’s progression at the hot corner, but what the Cubs do at the position will be worth monitoring.

[MORE: Assessing the Cubs’ defense this season]

“Christopher, I think in areas there’s been some progress and then we’ve taken some steps back on days for sure,” Counsell said on Wednesday. “And as we get a bigger sample here, we’ve got to evaluate that, absolutely.”

That would suggest that with success with Iowa, Madrigal could have worked his way back into the hot corner mix, but now, it won’t be the case now with him sidelined. The consistent playing time had worked in the past — after an injury in 2022, Madrigal played nearly every day in August and early September, posting a .277 average in 28 games before his season ended due to another injury. Last season he was a solid defensive third baseman — his 10 OAA was sixth among third baseman.

Instead, the Cubs will continue to rely on Morel at third with Patrick Wisdom and Bote able to fill in for the right matchups.

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