Cubs Organizational Breakdown, Pt. 5 – Chris Morel Headlines Thin Group of 3B Hopefuls
Since the Cubs don’t have many third base prospects, this one is going to be the shortest of all the position-player posts this winter, Considering how they’ve been able to trot Kris Bryant out at the hot corner since two weeks into the 2015 season, they have not really needed to develop a third baseman other than as a backup.
But between trade talks and impending free agency, the Cubs are going to need a third base prospect in relatively short order.
Who could help in 2020 if needed
If something should happen with Bryant this winter, David Bote could attempt to step in and assume the everyday position. But in terms of prospects, the Cubs don’t have anyone who could take over and be “the guy.”
While it’s impossible to replace Bryant with one prospect, the trio of Trent Giambrone, Zack Short, and Robel Garcia have all seen time at third base and could provide some depth.
Most likely to succeed
For about 10 weeks last summer, Chris Morel dazzled in his debut season at South Bend. He showed the ability to hit for power, run the bases, play outstanding defense at third, and fire throws across the diamond with a rocket arm. His wRC+ reached 124 in early July after being under 90 in early May.
Just watch the ball explode off his bat…
Chris Morel pic.twitter.com/MMx80DJhsy
— Nick Fury? (@RealCubsAnalyst) December 23, 2019
Morel missed the last six weeks of the season for an undisclosed injury, but he’s just 20 years old and is the only current prospect with a legit shot at being an everyday guy in the majors. He should be assigned to high-A Myrtle Beach to open the season, where the wind blowing in from left field might not hurt his power stroke as much as it has other prospects. He hits the ball harder than anyone in the system now and there’s still plenty of room for him to add muscle as he matures.
Even if Morel has a good year in 2020, he’s he’s not going to be ready for MLB until late 2021 at the earliest. It’ll take a lot of reps at Double-A to show that he’s able to make the jump, so he can’t be counted on as a replacement for Bryant if the Cubs indeed opt to make a blockbuster trade.
This is going to sound a little strange, but the Cubs’ second best prospect for third base might not even be in the organization yet. With the 16th pick in the draft next summer, the Cubs have an opportunity to select a player who they believe could be an excellent third baseman in time. It’s really early in that process, but there are a few names to keep an eye on as potential heirs apparent.
Arizona State’s Gage Workman is the most obvious choice. The 6-foot-3 switch-hitting corner man will only be 20 years old on draft day and can also play shortstop, as he did in the Cape Cod League in 2019. AJ Vukovich, a 6-foot-5 high school prospect, could be a second- or third-round pick after his stint with USA Baseball last summer.
The Cubs took Ryan Reynolds out of Texas last summer, but he struggled in Eugene after he was signed and has a lot of work to do on his swing. Wladimir Galindo, has struggled with injuries every year of his career and he should be at Double-A Tennessee this year. Who knows, maybe he puts it all together and flashes that power stroke we’ve seen occasionally the past five summers.
In case of emergency
Andy Weber, who was most likely to succeed as the shortstop last week, has played plenty of third base in college and at Eugene. If he added 10-15 pounds of muscle, he would be the perfect fill-in.
As you can see, the options aren’t great as things currently stand. Of course, any trade that might force the Cubs to make a change at third could mean having at least one player added to the organization at the very top of this list.
Other positional breakdowns