Chicago Cubs: David Bote’s spring could be in jeopardy after surgery

After a pretty tough 2021 showing, it’s safe to say David Bote is no longer in the starting lineup picture for the Chicago Cubs. He’s been a below-average hitter in each of the last two seasons – and in three of his four big league campaigns – and is a bench presence at this point.

But as we saw this year, depth is critical and it looks like a safe bet Bote’s 2022 season will get off to a late start after he underwent surgery to repair a separated left shoulder recently. He suffered the injury in late May and really struggled upon returning, batting just .197/.273/.320 down the stretch for the Cubs.

The team didn’t offer specifics as far as the extent of the procedure or a timeline for the infielder’s recovery – but shoulder issues, as our friends at Bleacher Nation pointed out, are fickle things and take a good amount of time to bounce back from. There are a ton of variables at play here – and, well, I’m no doctor.

Hopefully, it was that shoulder injury that led to Bote turning in the worst season of his career in 2021. His 63 OPS+ marked a personal low for him, as did his .330 slugging percentage. If it wasn’t the shoulder, well, that’s bad news for the Cubs, who have him under contract through 2024.

Early in his career, Bote was known for his late-game heroics – and with good reason. In his 2018 rookie campaign, he put up an OPS north of 1.110 with runners in scoring position and two outs. And who could forget the ultimate clutch moment? His walk-off grand slam against the Nationals in August of that year.

What role will David Bote have on the Chicago Cubs moving forward?

Assuming no major offseason additions in the infield, the Cubs will head into 2022 with Frank Schwindel, Nick Madrigal, Nico Hoerner and Patrick Wisdom penciled into the lineup card most days. Bote can spell any of those guys, especially at second and third. But the simple truth is this: he needs to show what he can do in 2022 or Chicago is going to move on, regardless of his contract.

Since the start of the 2020 season, he’s batted just .200/.285/.353 and has been worth -0.7 WAR. Sure, he’s got decent pop – his 115.6 MPH max exit velocity this year ranked among the best in all of baseball – but he can’t hit anything other than a fastball. Opponents quickly figured that out and have exploited it in big ways.

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It’s a tough break for Bote. Hopefully, once his shoulder heals he can get back to being more of the guy we saw early in his career as opposed to the one who’s really had to grind of late.