One last plug for Chicago Cubs starting second baseman David Bote before the Cubs kick off their season.
Today, Cubs President Jed Hoyer was on 670 The Score discussing a variety of pre-season things, and he was asked about the resolution of the second base competition in Spring Training, which led to Bote being named the starter and Nico Hoerner being optioned out.
“Ultimately, all of our second baseman played great this spring,” Hoyer said. “[But] it was sort of unanimous that David Bote had won the job and frankly deserves it. He’s been here for four years. He played great. I think he can really provide an impact offensively for us.”
As Hoyer suggests, you have to remember that the competition wasn’t just about Spring Training, where both Bote and Nico Hoerner raked in a small sample. (Ditto Eric Sogard and Ildemaro Vargas, actually.) Instead, there’s also the preceding years when Bote was grinding, developing, and showing his unique power ability.
When Hoyer says that the decision was unanimous, you can presume that is among the front office voices and the coaching staff. Manager David Ross has not been shy in his praise for Bote, both what he’s made himself into already and what he could become. We’ve discussed this before, and although so much of it was framed around Hoerner being optioned out for now, the decision really is about the Cubs wanting to know what Bote can be if he’s given a real shot to start. The front office no doubt wants to know what they have in Bote for 2021 and beyond, but the coaching staff also no doubt wants to know what they have in his bat for this year. It’s not as if players with Bote’s profile don’t sometimes break out late in their 20s to become regulars – not every hitter has the ability to average a 91+ mph exit velocity – and the Cubs need these kinds of hits that other organizations like the Dodgers, A’s, and Yankees so frequently find and develop.
I’m excited to see Bote get this shot, because he’s been a slightly above-average big league bat WITHOUT the benefit of regular starts. Sure, that can cut both ways – he’s not getting exposed as much, you can play match-ups, etc. – but we know that coming off the bench can be really challenging. Maybe he’s a guy who performs better when he’s seeing pitching daily, rather than every other day or in an 8th inning at bat against an absurd reliever. We already have good reason to believe his weird reverse splits are a fluke, which means they’re likely to see positive regression if he actually gets more playing time.