There are prospect rankings out there that don’t even mention Christopher Morel or Brandon Hughes, but Cubs fans will need to get to know them regardless, with both reportedly set to make their big league debuts this week at Wrigley Field.
We’ll start with Morel, whose name does show up on MLB Pipeline’s organization top 30 rankings, checking in at the #21 spot. The versatile do-it-all prospect hasn’t even played a game at Triple-A Iowa yet in his career, but his body of work with Double-A Tennessee seems to have impressed the brass enough for him to get the call.
This year with the Smokies, Morel carries a .306/.380/.565 slash, netting out to a career-high .945 OPS. Of course, there’s a sizable gap in the talent level he’ll face on the mound with the Cubs compared to what he’s seen to this point, but he’s always been known as a very toolsy talent.
Looking at Chicago’s infield options right now, it’s not hard to see why Morel is getting a look. Jonathan Villar looks like he’s lost a step (or 10, for that matter), has been terrible both defensively and offensively – and Ildemaro Vargas has just barely outperformed him. With Nico Hoerner and Nick Madrigal still sidelined and knowing you’re probably not going to get much offensively out of Andrelton Simmons, it’s definitely worth seeing what you might have in Morel.
Cubs add fresh life to an impressive bullpen mix in Brandon Hughes
Hughes, meanwhile, is a guy who has certainly gotten far less attention to this point. But at the end of the day, the results speak for themselves. Since being drafted in the 16th round out of Michigan State back in 2017, the left-hander has a 1.96 ERA, 12.2 K/9 and has racked up 124 punchouts to just 31 walks.
This year between Double and Triple-A, the southpaw has made 10 appearances spanning 16 2/3 frames, striking out 22 and walking just 3 – and is yet to allow a run. At every step along the way, this guy has put up numbers and with Chicago’s lack of left-handed relief options, similar to the situation with Morel and the middle infield mix, there’s nothing to lose by giving him a go.
The 26-year-old Hughes isn’t an overpowering velocity guy. His fastball usually sits in the low-90s and he can run it up to the mid-90s when needed; his slider is his wipeout pitch and he’s got some other tools in his arsenal of the off speed variety.
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These might not be the blue chip guys we’re all anxious to see in Chicago, but Morel is versatile, has a ton of different tools and is known for an infectious enthusiasm in the clubhouse. Hughes can add some depth to a bullpen that’s been surprisingly solid to this point – and, again, if 2022 is all about evaluation, then there’s no time like the present to make a pair of moves like this.