Chicago Cubs 2023 Season Preview: Third baseman Christopher Morel
Perhaps the most exciting storyline for the Chicago Cubs during the 2022 regular season was the emergence of prospect Christopher Morel. After homering in his first Major League plate appearance in May, Morel's promotion to the Major League level provided a spark with the Cubs as it gave the team a high-energy player.
Morel finished the 2022 season with a slash line of .235/.308/.433/.322 wOBA/108 wRC+ to go along with 16 home runs in 425 plate appearances. Morel considers his natural position to be third base but is capable of playing across the infielder with the exception of first base and all three outfield spots. In 2022, Morel saw the bulk of his playing time in center field.
Despite the exciting start to Morel's Major League career, the second half of the 2022 season was when it was clear that Major League pitchers made the adjustment to his offensive approach. Morel struggled during the second half of the season as he slashed .194/.269/.376/.284 wOBA/82 wRC+. There is no doubt that Morel holds the inside track to earning a spot on the Major League roster in 2023 but with 2 minor league options remaining, it is not out of the question to think he may start the year with Triple-A Iowa in the event that he struggles during Spring Training.
2023 FanGraphs ZiPS Projections: .231/.296/.418/.311 wOBA/100 wRC+, 19 home runs, 1.6 fWAR.
2023 Baseball Reference Projections: .247/.319/.428/.747, 14 home runs, 19 doubles
The addition of Cody Bellinger in center field this season will lead to Morel spending more time in the infield this season. Despite Cubs' manager David Ross having previously stated that he envisions Morel as the team's super utility player while playing on a regular basis with no set position, the operating theory is that the second-year player will platoon with Patrick Wisdom at third base. Morel struggled considerably against left-handed pitchers last season so that would allow Wisdom to get the start against southpaws with Morel starting against righties.
If Morel can make the adjustments to overcome Major League pitchers now "having the book" on him, it wouldn't be out of the question to think he could become the everyday third baseman for the Cubs--especially if that adjustment includes improvement against left-handed pitchers. Otherwise, expect Morel to once again be the high-energy guy for the Cubs while playing multiple positions throughout the season.