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Ethan Hearn Can Catch Big League “Stuff”

I got so much better than my first offseason receiving and getting to catch [Cubs LHP Justin Steele] because his stuff, it’s big league stuff. So when you’re catching him every single day, you have no option to get better, or you’re just gonna fail.

Ethan Hearn
Ethan Hearn at Instructs by Rich Biesterfeld (@biest22)

A special thanks to Ethan Hearn for joining

Ethan Hearn is a long way from the majors. Such is the nature of being a catcher drafted out of high school. The learning curve is steep, far more than other positions on the diamond. This learning curve isn’t just proving yourself with a bat or in the field. Now, more than ever, catchers must be adept at game-planning. Sequencing of pitches, communicating with a pitching staff, preparing for opposing hitters, are all vital for the success of a young backstop. He’ll begin 2021 with a strong chance to make a full-season club out of spring training, but in a way, Ethan Hearn has been getting a crash course in being a big league catcher this offseason.

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Ethan Hearn was known for two things in the 2019 draft, plus raw power and pure arm strength. As the top rated prep catcher in draft class, his selection was another welcome change from pre-2018 draft picks of relatively safe selections by the Cubs. Drafting Ethan Hearn brings some serious ceiling to your organization, and a lot of moxie to go with it. But with that excitement comes the need to polish those raw tools. Only a handful of teams boast a better hitting infrastructure than what the Cubs currently offer with Director of Hitting, Justin Stone (‘Stoney’). According to Ethan, it’s a great match. “The first time I met Stoney, he’s real big into the technical side of how the body works. I had no idea. I just grabbed the bat, swinging as hard as I possibly can. So it was kind of it was like coming from the rock age of hitting and getting to talk to him and see that I was fascinated on how he approaches hitting.” Ethan said.

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Ethan went on to provide more insight into how Justin Stone and the rest of the hitting gurus impact batters in the organization. Unlike a few very strong organizations with solid hitting infrastructures, the Cubs don’t exert a “one-size fits all” approach. Instead, Stone and company want each individual hitter’s body dictate how their swing should move. “There’s certain swings, your body naturally goes into so everything now with [Justin Stone] that I feel like for me, there’s not one set way. Everyone is different.” Hearn said, “Nobody’s body moves the same as somebody else’s body. So instead of forcing [you to change and saying] ‘well, you need to have your hands here, just because this looks better’. It’s kind of like ‘you should move your hands here because this is where your body wants to be’. And so you’re adjusting your swing to you instead of adjusting the swing just because you want it to be adjusted.”

What I found fascinating is that Ethan described how the Cubs provided each player with examples of successful hitters with similar body movements to give each player multiple examples of how they could let their own natural body work for them. “I bought into it the first day I saw it. And they kind of just went through it was ‘hey, this is what type of hitter you are. This is how your body moves. Here’s six or seven big leaguers that move the same way you do. And this is how they hit. Take those six or seven and kind of make it your own thing’.” Hearn said. If it sounds like Ethan is excited about his work with the hitting coordinators, you’re right. And as a Cubs fan, that should excite you even more.

Ethan Hearn and Cole Roederer by Rich Biesterfeld (@biest22)

But it takes more to be a successful catcher than a powerful bat. Ethan knows this too. Early in his pro career, he was able to connect with Chicago Cubs LHP Justin Steele. The two men lived only about 20 miles from each other back home. They’ve since formed a strong bond. During 2020 and the early parts of 2021, the pair have been training together both pushing each other to fulfill their ultimate dream. Cub fans may not have been able to see Steele in action, but he was briefly called up in 2020. A hamstring injury in an inopportune moment later in the season prevented him from ultimately getting on the mound, but Justin Steele has big league ‘stuff’. With a mid 90s fastball and a new high spin slider, Steele is ready to impact the big league roster. He’s a Darkhorse pick for a bullpen slot on Opening Day 2021. Ethan Hearn has embraced the challenge of catching a major league caliber arm. “I got so much better than my first offseason receiving and getting to catch [Steele] because his “stuff”, it’s big league “stuff”. So when you’re catching him every single day, you have no option to get better, or you’re just gonna fail.” Hearn said.

It’s a long road to the big leagues for young players like Ethan Hearn, but he’s embracing the challenge. And any opportunity to hone his craft catching wicked “stuff”, only provides him more of a leg up in his development. Fans will hopefully be able to see Ethan in action this year in Myrtle Beach, where he can bring that power, that arm, that moxie, and a bit more experience knowing he can catch elite pitches.

Full interview coming soon to

Prospect Report: Riley Thompson

Starter with strong spin rate fastball is set to debut a new “spike-curve”. He may have more velocity in the tank and looks the part of a starter with “Vulcan changeup”.

Riley Thompson via Clinton Cole (@cdcole55)

A special thanks to Riley Thompson for providing some insight into his development

How acquired: MLB Draft, 11th Round, 2018

Riley Thompson was an above slot signing ($200k) by the Cubs in their impactful 2018 draft. His time at the University of Louisville wasn’t marked by success on the statline (6.82 ERA in 33 innings during his draft year), but the Cubs saw the foundation for a pitcher with strong pitching metrics coming from a college team known for developing successful pitchers.

Though he boasted excellent spin rates, a riding fastball, new changeup, and an excellent curveball, development never ends for a player who dreams of impacting a major league ballclub. According to Thompson, he’s working on his fastball development and incorporation of a new curveball leading into 2021.

Mechanics and Control

Thompson is an athletic pitcher who works with a quick tempo. He uses an over-the-top delivery, which at times could be described as “aggressive”. It has some effort to it including a pronounced headwhack, but it seems fairly repeatable. He comes with a prior injury history (Tommy John surgery 2015), but a solid durable frame. He has a pretty decent chance to start.

For as “aggressive” as I described Riley’s mechanics, he has average control. He’ll usually be around the strikezone, which allows his stuff to play up. Thompson’s command of his pitches lags a bit behind, but it’s more fringe-average than below average. A player with his profile could still succeed even with the command as it is, but he has a good chance to improve. When Thompson is on (like in his 9/14/19 5 inning, 10 K, no hit masterpiece in the MWL playoffs), you can see what he can do when he’s clicking with three pitches and average or above-average command

Pitching Arsenal

Fastball: Thompson will throw low-to-mid 90s with impressive raw spin numbers. The fastball generally sets up his offspeed pitches, but it can sit on it’s own when he’s commanding it well. He struggles a bit to get it on the inside corner to righthanders (where it really plays off his changeup). It’s a successful offering when he goes up in the zone. In isolation, the fastball is an average pitch with average command, but it really truly can’t be viewed in that way. I’d say it’s an above-average offering when played off his secondaries.
Riley described his improving fastball traits during shutdown. Considering he already boasted excellent raw spin, this pitch will be one to watch in 2021.

2019 Curveball: Thompson’s traditional grip curveball is still a dynamic pitch (especially when locating the fastball). It’s a true power curve with high spin, however the shape of the pitch has more horizontal movement than a 12-6 direction (mirroring the directions on a clock; pure vertical drop). A modification in shape could allow it to tunnel with a riding fastball up in the zone.

2021 Curveball: According to Riley, he’s worked hard to develop a new “spike-curve”. Spike-curves or knuckle-curves are immensely popular pitches recommended often by the Chicago Cubs Research & Development (R&D) gurus. Thompson says it has a true 12-6 shape now and plays off his new fastball traits. It takes a lot of trust in R&D and the player to move on from a plus pitch, but if the pitch is as promising as advertised then this curveball will be an electric offering.

Changeup: Riley adopted a different grip for his changeup nicknamed a “Vulcan-change”, resembling the Vulcan greeting from Star Trek. This new grip has shone to be a successful adoption with a penchant for fading into righthanders. Batters won’t live long and prosper when this pitch is clicking (I will not apologize). There’s a significant velocity deviation from the fastball. I don’t have the numbers on it, but it appears to “kill spin”. A changeup with low spin is a challenge for hitters facing high-spin pitchers like Thompson. I find it’s an above-average pitch.

Future Projection

Scouts even outside the organization believe that Riley Thompson has a chance to be a long-term starter. According to Matt Dorey, Thompson has made strong progress during the shutdown (likely related to his fastball and curveball development) and should get a chance to start at AA in 2021. If he succeeds, Riley may see innings in Iowa or even Chicago later in the season. It’s not impossible to see him moved to the pen later in the year to manage innings. Thompson represented a high-ceiling selection out of the 2018 draft. Thus far, Riley Thompson is making good on that decision.

Prospect Report: Cole Roederer

Young outfielder sells out for power more than he should. A solid year in A+ would do wonders for his future projection.

Cole Roederer via Clinton Cole (@cdcole55)

How acquired: MLB Draft 2nd round 2018

The Cubs draft class in 2018 is loaded with talent that could define the next wave of talent to make Wrigley. The class features the first draftee to make it to the majors, the top prospect in the system, and a pitcher with “some of the highest upside in the system”, but sweet-swinging Cole Roederer has as much talent as anyone in the class. Cole was a surprising selection in the draft as he was coming off an injury to his non-throwing shoulder and had a strong commitment to UCLA to play baseball. A few weeks after the Cubs inked Roederer to an above-slot, $1.2 million offer, Cole scratched “hit a home run in pro ball” off his bucket list.

Hit

Roederer has one of the purest swings in the organization. He starts in a good balanced position and brings the barrel through the zone in an efficient manner. He can go the other way and drive the ball into the gap, but in 2019 he sold out for power form his pull-side. This definitely led to more swing and miss. He sported a K% of 25% in with a Midwest League (MWL) league-average 101 wRC+ in 2019. Based on 2019 game action, it’s a below-average hit tool, but a reinvigorated effort to use an all-fields approach this offseason would help the hit tool improve as he climbs the minor league ladder. I ultimately think Cole demonstrates at least an average hit tool in 2021. The foundation is there for an above-average hit grade, but I’ll refrain from that proclamation until 2021 games start up.

Cole Roederer Spray Chart from Baseball Savant

Power

Cole has some juice in the bat, but it’s all to his pull-side at present (see spray chart above). His bad habits to sell out for power held him back from more success in the MWL, but it’s area that both Cole and the Cubs player development staff are keenly aware of. Still, you can’t discount the excellent power to rightfield. As one of the youngest players (19-year-old) in the MWL, he crushed 9 home runs, which would have been good for 33rd in the league. Above-average power is 19-22 home runs a year according to Fangraphs and I believe Roederer can get there. Cubs officials spoke about Roederer’s experience during the 2020 instructional league. While providing an updated on added strength, Cubs VP of Player Development, Matt Dorey, also added that the Cubs are working with Cole to go towards the middle of the field.

“The big thing for Cole is not selling out for power to his pull side,” Dorey said. “He hit a long home run at our big league park the other day, and he has enough power to get himself in trouble. He is making better decisions on changeups and offspeed pitches. That’s really been the focus, working more to the middle of the field. His power will happen organically and he doesn’t have to manufacture it.”

Chicago Cubs VP of Player Development Matt Dorey via Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline
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Field/Arm

Cole has such strong instincts that his skills in CF play up considerably. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him eventually land in LF, but he has the chops to stay in CF for a few years. What I have been most impressed with is Roederer’s ability to move laterally into the gaps as well as come in on a sinking liners to make the catch. Widely regarded as one of the most difficult plays, outfields coming in to catch a ball hit right at them represents a true test of his ability in the field. His arm may hold him back from being a plus defensive CF.

The arm was barely average in 2019, although I only got a handful of looks on it. The Cubs have had some success with arm-strengthening programs, so it’ll be a wait-and-see approach on final grades here. If he doesn’t make improvements, his arm strength may precipitate a move to LF down the line.

Speed

Roederer moves gracefully out in the field and on the bases. He’s picked up double-digit steals each year, but steals aren’t the most critical factor for long-term success. The speed in concert with his instincts allows Cole to play a very solid defensive CF. Like all players, this grade may drop as he adds more muscle, but he starts with a good foundation.

Ethan Hearn and Cole Roederer from Instructs by Rich Biesterfeld (@biest22)

Future Projection

Cole Roederer has been overshadowed by the success of his draft-mates, but it’d be foolish to sleep on the young outfielder. There’s a reason he was comped to Red Sox LF, Andrew Benintendi, in draft reports. He still displays the same tool-kit as the Boston outfielder. Roederer’s .224/.319/.365 may not seem overly exciting, but at the same age, Benintendi slashed a similar .276/.368/.333 line in college. The age 21 season approaching should be a strong marker for Cole’s future projection. Using improved strength and a commitment to drive the ball to all-fields, Roederer should get a chance to compete against strong competition at High-A South Bend. He has as much talent as almost anyone in the organization and the Cubs are committed to helping him put all the tools together.

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wRC+Weighted runs created plusAttempts to quantify total offensive value and extrapolate the data into total runs. It takes park effects into account. 100 wRC+ is average.See specific calculation at Fangraphs

The 2018 Cubs Draft Class Can Define the Next Wave

As a draft fanatic, I’ve told my wife that my favorite day of the year is the first day of the major league draft. That’s not a particularly popular sentiment around the holidays, but for me, it’s true. The MLB draft is hope springing anew. When the team you root for is a struggle to watch at the major league level, there is always the MLB draft providing hope that the next superstar is waiting to join your organization. Though it’s commonly thought that it takes approximately five years to properly evaluate a draft, I feel that there’s rare situations where you can examine early successes and give credit where it’s due. The Chicago Cubs draft class in 2018 fits that bill. The early returns are promising and it may go down as one of the more successful draft classes by the franchise in the last 20 years.

The peak Cubs years of 2015-2018 were driven, in part, by the successes of first round draft selections. Kris Bryant (2013, 2nd overall) was a rookie of the year, MVP, and multiple all-star. Kyle Schwarber (2014, 4th overall) powered his way through the minor leagues and mashed his way to be tied for the franchise lead in post season home runs. Schwarber’s “phoenix like” rise from the ashes in coming back for the World Series from a severe leg injury in April 2016 provided a an emotional lift and a powerful bat for the curse-breaking Chicago Cubs. Ian Happ (2015, 9th overall) experienced a similar quick rise through the minor leagues and produced an .842 OPS while popping 24 home runs in only 115 games. Even Albert Almora Jr. (2012, 6th overall) produced a wRC+ above 100 in 2016 and 2017. The player with the most career WAR drafted by the Cubs outside of the first round since 2012? David Bote with 2.9 career WAR (according to Fangraphs). For sustained success, an organization has to do a better job of hitting on draft picks.

The 2018 Chicago Cubs draft class appears to be different than prior years. It is still led by a successful first round pick, but unlike previous classes, there are significant prospects taken throughout the draft. Several of these prospects are on track to be key contributors at the major league level sooner than later.

Draft in Review

The Top Two Rounds

Nico Hoerner

Nico Hoerner in 2018 with Eugene

1st Round (24th overall)

Fans were shocked with Nico’s selection in the draft, but he quickly proved he was up to the task. Hoerner flew through the minors to become the first player from the 2018 class to make his MLB debut. Last season was a mixed bag at best, but there are encouraging signs that a bounce back could be in store in 2021.

Brennen Davis

Brennen Davis via Clinton Cole (@cdcole55)

2nd Round (62nd overall)

The progress Brennen Davis has made in transforming himself from raw multi-sport athlete to potential force to be reckoned with in a little over two years is astounding. Davis boasts some of the most impressive skills in the entire system and looks ready to start 2021 in AA. He’s a potential force to be reckoned with in he near future.

Cole Roederer

Cole Roederer via Clinton Cole (@cdcole55)

2nd Round compensation (77th overall)

Sweet-swinging Cole Roederer was getting comps to Andrew Benintendi on draft-day, but he’s been delayed in his development with an up-and-down 2019 in South Bend and the 2020 shutdown. But we’ve reached the point where people may be sleeping on Cole. He’ll still be 21 all of next season with a good opportunity to play at high A. A strong season with an improved plan at the plate could shout him back up rankings and into the 2022-2023 plans for the Cubs.

Paul Richan (Traded to Detroit)

2nd Round Compensation (78th overall)

Richan had a solid post-draft debut in Eugene and was holding his own in High A in 2019, Myrtle Beach, before he was dealt to Detroit along with Alex Lange for Nick Castellanos. Richan is a “sequencing” focused pitcher similar to 2017 draftee, Cory Abbott (though Abbott is a far better prospect). Best of luck to Paul in Detroit!

Other Top Prospects (Top 30 for Ivy Futures)

Andy Weber

Andy Weber by Rikk Carlson (@rikkcarl10)

5th Round (158th overall)

Andy Weber is criminally underrated though he is starting to get more publicity. Weber has such a smooth, balanced swing that is geared for hit over power from the left-hand side. His hitting mechanics are quiet and calm, which helps him provide a high contact bat that sprays doubles all over the field. He’s a more than capable shortstop, but will likely find a home moving around the diamond.

Kohl Franklin

Kohl Franklin by Rikk Carlson (@rikkcarl10)

6th Round (188th overall)

Kohl Franklin is someone “with as much upside as anyone in [the Cubs’] system” according to VP of Player Development, Matt Dorey. You can see why as this ultra-projectable pitcher has added good weight to his frame along with significant mph to his fastball. He was already armed with one of the best changeups in the Cubs minor leagues and an improving curveball that flashes plus, but his fastball with natural movement now sits mid 90s. Franklin looks like at least a mid-rotation arm in the future.

Riley Thompson

Riley Thompson via Clinton Cole (@cdcole55)

11th Round (338th overall)

Thompson may be 24 to start the year (likely in AA), but he has some seriously impressive pitches. Riley got a recent shoutout from Cubs VP, Matt Dorey, as a likely breakout candidate in 2021. Thompson is armed with a low to mid 90s fastball (can touch upper 90s) and an average changeup, but the high spin rate curveball is his bread and butter. Dorey offered praise for Thompson’s work to craft his pitches during the shutdown so don’t be surprised if there’s an extra tick on the fastball or even improved spin rate/efficiency.

Jack Patterson

Jack Patterson by Rich Biesterfeld (@biest22)

32nd Round (968th overall)

Jack Patterson is more than just a great story. He has a very real chance of contributing big league innings as early as this season. Patterson missed extensive time during college after he was struck in the head by a ball. He took the Cubs minor leagues by storm in 2019 by starting at extended spring training, then dominating South Bend and Myrtle Beach, before ending the year in AA. The Cubs thought enough of Jack that they gave him a coveted 60-man spot in South Bend last season. Receiving any impact from a 32nd round pick is enormous for an organization. Whether starting or in relief, Patterson should soon have the opportunity to fulfill his dream.

A few more to talk about

NameDraft Position: Round (overall)Notes
Ethan Roberts4th round (128)A spin-rate darling, Roberts is an intriguing reliever who may begin 2021 in AA.
D.J. Artis7th round (218)High walks with a moderate K%. The Jon Jay comp feels lazy, but accurate for this LF/CF.
Cam Sanders 12th round (368)A guy who may surprise likely in the pen. He keeps making adjustments (that curve could be something special) as he climbs the ladder.
Ezequiel Pagan 13th round (398)It’s rare to see a HS player taken later in the draft that isn’t a high bonus signee, but the Cubs have had some success finding opportunities like this out of Puerto Rico. He’s a raw player, but shows some OBP chops.

Cubs Land Three Prospects on MLB’s Top 100 Ranking

An emerging Chicago Cubs farm system continues to gain national notoriety. Brailyn Marquez, Brennen Davis have been consensus Top 100 prospects in the majority of publications (Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, The Athletic), but they are also joined with Miguel Amaya on MLB Pipeline’s ranking. Landing squarely in the middle of farm systems with three Top 100 prospects may not seem like an accomplishment, but it’s a strong statement for a system that recently was ranked near the bottom tier of organizations.

Brailyn Marquez

MLB Pipeline #60

Brailyn Marquez via Clinton Cole (@cdcole55)

Ivy Futures Rank #4: Marquez carries significant reliever risk, but lefty arms who throw over 100 mph routinely and have a chance to be a starter aren’t easy to find. Fans saw the development necessary for Brailyn to succeed during his brief callup in 2020. He needs to ensure his mechanics (especially keeping his upper and lower halves in sync) are in line to produce his best results. He is prone to getting mechanically out of whack leaving pitches drifting to his arm-side (away from righties). While that all sounds like a negative, it also offers Marquez and the Cubs staff a clear development target. Brailyn’s also working to improve his 2-seam fastball and his “spike-slider”. Marquez will likely start at AA per Chicago Cubs VP of Player Development, Matt Dorey meaning he’s only a phone call away. He will have a strong chance to log big league innings in 2021, whether in the rotation or relief.

Brennen Davis

MLB Pipeline #61
Brennen Davis via Clinton Cole (@cdcole55)

Ivy Futures Rank #1: We’re entering the stage of his development where Brennen Davis ranked at #61 feels low. He has absolute all-start potential and should be able to succeed at CF in the big leagues before moving to RF. His adjustment to full-season ball was impressive, but his success at the South Bend Alternate Site in 2020 was met with praise throughout the Cubs organization. Davis is no longer the raw, toolsy prospect he was coming out of high school as a multi-sport athlete in 2018. He now represents a top prospect who is putting it all together and should impact Wrigley Field soon.

Miguel Amaya

MLB Pipeline #89
Miguel Amaya in Eugene

Ivy Futures Rank #3: Miguel Amaya is still a defense-first catching prospect, but that shouldn’t sell him short. The bat is improving, capped off by an outstanding .261/.553(!)/.609 slash line in the Puerto Rican Winter Leagues this winter. Amaya is lauded for his work with the pitching staff and he’s more than willing to show off a plus arm. He spent all of the 2020 summer at the South Bend Alternate Site working with more experienced pitchers, including many big leaguers. This valuable opportunity should give him a leg up in his final development time before making the major leagues.

Going Forward

You may have noticed that Ivy Futures #2 prospect, Adbert Alzolay, is not represented on MLB’s Top 100 prospects. That’s unsurprising for two reasons. First, Adbert is 1 inning away from losing his rookie eligibility so some publications don’t include him at all (MLB Pipeline does, for the record). The second reason is with his age and experience in the big leagues, Alzolay is often listed after the top prospects (usually #4-5) because he doesn’t “feel” like a prospect. People are sleeping on the changes he’s made to his repertoire. The addition of his slider and 2-seamer provide legitimate upside as a MLB ready mid-rotation starter or better. Alzolay won’t be on next years list, but his ranking is irrespective of his value to the organization.

Next year the Chicago Cubs have a very strong chance to feature more than the three players in 2021. Prime breakout candidates like Ed Howard, Reginald Preciado, Kohl Franklin, Ryan Jensen, and even Cristian Hernandez and Cole Roederer have an outside shot of making the list in 2022. This doesn’t take into account the Cubs 21st overall draft pick. For reference 2020’s #22nd overall draft pick, Cade Cavalli, ranked #99 on MLB Pipeline’s ranking

The “win-now” trades supplemented the big league team and were the right mentality in a contention window, but these trades did contribute to the need for a transition period for the organization. The Cubs are starting to see the impact of the organizational philosophy changes first started in 2018, which were then implemented in full force the year after. In 2021, Cubs fans should start to hear about real growth in the farm system. The real question will be “how long until we see the success effect at Wrigley Field?”.

Prospect Report: Christopher Morel

Tooled out player with electric skills is starting to take the next steps

Chris Morel by Clinton Cole (@CDCole55)

How acquired: International Free Agency 2015

Christopher (Chris) Morel is an electric player who flashes unbelievable tools. With certain mannerisms reminiscent to Javier Baez (not comparing the two), Morel can bring fans to their feet with plays at the plate or in the field. There were positive reports of Chris’s progress at the Alternate Site in 2020. Consistency and health are the main factors holding him back from ranking higher. Strong results this year in AA might answer the question of who will be starting the majority of games for the Chicago Cubs in 2022.

Hit

Chris Morel has experimented with hand and bat placement through his pro career. Prior to his time in South Bend, Morel would lay the bat on his shoulder before bringing it through the zone. It was very unrefined. Early in 2019, Chris Morel started with his hands close to the center of his chest. As the summer moved along, he brought his hands up closer to a set hitting position. Morel has a wide stance with a lot of moving parts with his hands and leg kick. That appears to have been quieted down a bit with more experience, but it’s not a quiet swing. Quick-twitch athletes can make that work with strong, quick, hands. Morel definitely falls into that category. It’s unknown what that swing will look like in 2021, but there’s progress being made. The best way to describe approach is that Morel attacks pitches. He’s a hunter and aggressor. Sometimes that will lead to a lack of plate discipline, but he puts the ball in play and has speed to beat it out. It’s below-average hit right now based on my 2019 viewings, but I’d expect hit to sit with an average hit tool next year.

Power

It’s not the top power in the organization, but Morel can definitely flash plus raw power. He uses his line-drive swing to drive the ball to all fields, but most of his home-run power is to his pull side. The Cubs are working on that according to Chicago Cubs VP of Player Development, Matt Dorey.

There were some mechanical tweaks — staying shorter and staying through the ball — and using the big part of the field was a really big focus for him. Really driving to the right-center field gap because we knew he has a ton of power to the pull side.

Matt Dorey via Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic (subscription required and encouraged)

At present, I’d put this closer to average power, but 2021 against AA pitchers will provide context on the progress Morel has made with his swing.

Chris Morel Spray Chart (2017-2019) from Baseball Savant

Field/Arm

Chris Morel is absolutely electric. Unlike Andy Weber, who just makes all the plays look routine, Morel has some serious fun out there on the dirt. At this stage, I’d say his SS days are behind him, but at 3B or 2B, he could be very exciting. He’s more successful at 3B than anywhere else in the infield due to his strong arm. The Cubs have also discussed getting him out in CF more often.

The arm is plus as well. He’s dynamic from the 3B position. The arm has serious carry and it’d allow him to succeed in the outfield if he moves to CF.

Speed

Morel is high energy with a motor that feels like it’s missing an off-switch. When he drives a ball in the gap, he’s thinking triple. He has above-average speed which helps balls where he misses the barrel turn into infield singles.

Future Projection

Christopher Morel is your classic boom or bust prospect. He’s quick-twitch, but still refining parts of his game. The Cubs are very high on Morel and that should inspire confidence in him ironing out certain aspects of his game. This isn’t a player that you want to remove his aggressiveness since it does suit him well, but providing him the tools to improve on selective-aggression will help him thrive against more upper level pitching in AA. He’s slated to open the season in AA Tennessee alongside other exciting prospects like Brailyn Marquez and Brennen Davis.