Cubs Prospect Profile: Christopher Morel
But a lesser-known third baseman putting up numbers with the best is the 20-year-old Christopher Morel.
Morel signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in August 2015. He was part of an international class for the Cubs that season that included catching prospect Miguel Amaya, middle infielder Aramis Ademan and flame-throwing lefty Brailyn Marquez. He was physically underdeveloped as a 16-year-old at the time, according to Baseball America, but stood out for his bat-to-ball ability and the hope his projectable tools developed as he aged into his body.
Morel made his pro debut in 2017 and came stateside in 2018, where he didn’t perform in a small 54-game sample. The following season (2019), his first with a full-season club, he started to pop on prospect radars. He played 73 games with the Class-A South Bend Cubs and slashed .284/.320/.467. Morel’s performance was enough to place him inside the Top 20 in average and Top 10 in slugging among hitters in the Class-A Midwest League with at least 250 plate appearances.
The Cubs placed Morel on the injured list during the middle of July with a knee problem, effectively ending his season. In the 20 games prior to his injury, he was slugging nearly .600 with 10 extra-base hits.
Although Morel has played shortstop and the outfield, the Cubs placed him into a full-time role at third base with South Bend. As he fills into his frame even more with age and slows down, third base will allow his plus arm strength to shine from the hot corner. Outside of his cannon, the 20-year-old’s main tools are connected back to his developing power. Some expect Morel to have plus raw power in the future, signifying his present better-than-average pop should convert to average game power when paired with his slightly below average hit tool.
At each of the levels Morel has logged games in his career, he has been known as a free-swinger. With South Bend, he had more doubles than walks and struck out five times as much as he walked. His bat-to-ball ability allows Morel to survive against better pitching. It’s not that he strikes out too much at the moment, but rather that he doesn’t walk enough, preferring to make contact than work counts and take pitches.
This characteristic of Morel’s resembles that of superstar shortstop Javier Báez. While he doesn’t have the raw power and flashy tools of Báez, their affinity for contact and early-count swinging is similar. Morel has also been compared by some scouts as having the leadership qualities and high-energy spirit that a player like Báez is known for.
Morel is expected to have another two to three years of development in the minor leagues before the Cubs start considering where he fits on the 40-man and major league roster. Sites like Fangraphs predict Morel will debut in 2022 at the earliest. By then, there will be a clearer picture of the depth at third base on the Cubs roster and how Morel could fit in.
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