Craig Counsell, Cubs practicing patience with Christopher Morel at third

The early defensive returns for the young slugger haven't been great, but the hot corner still makes the most sense for Morel heading into 2024.

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Christopher Morel has the offensive tools to be not only the best hitter in the Chicago Cubs lineup on a nightly basis but in the entire National League. The only problem is finding him an everyday home on defense and this spring, that home has been third base - to mixed reviews.

Morel had a brutal day defensively earlier this week and it immediately drew criticism from the fanbase. But with Matt Chapman off the free agent board and Matt Shaw likely at least a half-season from being ready for the big leagues, the only alternatives are Nick Madrigal and Patrick Wisdom. This is a drastically better lineup with Morel in the batting order than either of those two, regardless of his defensive issues.

Over at The Athletic (subscription required), Sahadev Sharma broke down those concerns, speaking in-depth with infield coach Jonathan Mota and also manager Craig Counsell, who has stressed the importance of locking Morel into a sole position as much as possible in 2024.

“We have high expectations for him, he does too,” Mota said. “But mistakes are going to happen. We just need to move on. More than anything, keep him centered between the ears. He’s done a great job with that.”

There's going to be a learning curve at third for Christopher Morel

Meanwhile, Counsell stressed that players - especially young players - learn from mistakes like these. That's the attitude he'll have to maintain not only for the last few weeks of Cactus League action but also early on in the year as Morel hopefully gets more comfortable at third base and settles in a bit more with the glove.

If he's in the lineup every single day this year, Morel could easily be the Cubs' first 30-homer player since 2019. There are going to be growing pains defensively. The sooner we can all come to terms with that and accept it, the less painful those early-season miscues are going to feel.