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Chicago Cubs: Freak injury just the latest setback for David Bote

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

When David Bote inked his five-year extension with the Chicago Cubs in the spring of 2019, it was supposed to provide a solid insurance policy for the team for years to come. Now, with the core gone and the entire infield turned over and Bote mired in deep struggles, the last thing he needed was to hit the shelf with a freak injury.

But that’s exactly what’s happened.

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During on-field batting practice prior to Friday’s lopsided loss to the White Sox, Bote stepped on a baseball and suffered a ‘significant’ ankle sprain. It’s serious enough that manager David Ross either couldn’t or wouldn’t give a firm timeline on Bote’s return – and deflected when asked if it could shelf the utility infielder for the rest of the year.

"“Got some test results back and it’s a significant sprain that we’ll have to treat and try to get him back as soon as we can. No timetable at the moment.”"

Bote is among the group of Cubs players who haven’t lived up to expectations this year, batting just .202/.270/.339 – good for a 65 OPS+. This marks the second straight season in which the former 18th round pick has been a below-average offensive player, but he’s been notably worse in 2021 than he was during last year’s 60-game sprint.

With the team seemingly re-evaluating everybody on the roster, Bote’s job is far from safe as Jed Hoyer embarks on his overhaul. Over the last two years, he’s managed just a .202/.282/.362 line and has been 25 percent below average, according to OPS+. At that point, you can’t justify giving him regular at-bats in place of young guys you need to evaluate.

Last year, he struck out – and walked – at career-high rates. But this year, he’s seen both his strikeouts and walks fall. His BABIP suggests he’s been pretty unlucky, too, but at this point we’re talking about more than 400 plate appearances since the start of last year where he’s been solidly below-average.

He’s still more than capable of hitting the ball hard. This season, his 115.6 MPH max exit velocity ranks in the top four percent of the league. In 2020, he ranked in the top eight percent of the league in average exit velocity. But at the end of the day, while it’s nice to have a guy hit the ball hard, the production has to align.

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So if this freak injury winds up costing Bote the rest of a season that’s been, well, not great, he’s definitely a guy who has to come into spring training next spring ready to show that he can earn playing time in what will undoubtedly be a mix of new faces in Mesa.