Chicago Cubs: Making adjustments at the highest level
In late April, longtime veteran Ben Zobrist went into Joe Maddon‘s office and told him to start David Bote over him the next day. Bote was swinging a hot stick and he recognized that, putting the team ahead of himself, something that’s made him one of the most beloved guys on the team.
"“It means a lot,” Bote told The Athletic. “It’s humbling. Ben Zobrist is ‘Benny Pro’ for a reason. Joe being Joe, he’s got a pulse of what’s going on here and he respects the veterans, he respects us. It’s a really cool thing for Zo to do. That’s what this clubhouse is about. We love each other. We’re family. All we care about is winning.”"
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It’s that attitude that’s guided Bote’s ascent from relatively unknown prospect to a key part of a Chicago Cubs roster looking to get back to October for an unprecedented fifth consecutive season. And that same team-first mentality pushed Bote to improve his game this winter, something that’s been evident on the diamond early in 2019.
His contact rate is up, he’s taking more first pitches to get settled in the box, his strikeout rate is down and his hard-hit percentage has jumped sharply (seriously, you need to go read Sahadev Sharma’s latest piece in The Athletic (sub required)- the trends we’re seeing from Bote are unbelievable).
What has all this led to? Bote has accumulated 0.6 WAR already in 2019, due largely in part to an above-average 116 OPS+ and rock-solid .261/.354/.478 slash line. He’s struck out just 15 times while drawing eight walks and he’s done all this while playing three different infield positions.
Getting this production from Bote has been key. Although he’s scorching hot heading into May, Anthony Rizzo was ice-cold for much of early April and Kris Bryant is yet to rediscover the power that made him the National League MVP three years ago.
But with the Cubs’ big boppers finding their groove, Bote is ready to do whatever is asked of him, whenever the request comes. This is a guy who understands what the ‘Cubs Way’ means and lives it each and every time he takes the field or steps to the dish.