The Cubs’ Outfield is Good, Morel is Good, Hard Contact is Good, and Other Cubs Bullets

Sometimes I think about how Cubs President Jed Hoyer said he wants to get extensions done – if any – before Spring Training starts. No negotiations during Spring Training.

And then I think about how Spring Training is only a little more than a week away …

  • A whole bunch of outfield thoughts coming together for me this morning. It started when I was reading Paul Sporer going over his outfielder rankings for fantasy purposes, and he had Seiya Suzuki all the way up at 14th in baseball:
  • I’m on the Seiya Suzuki breakout train! A finger injury interrupted his solid stateside debut and he doesn’t need a massive skills surge to go off in 2023. Some pop, some speed, and an improved lineup in Chicago give him a chance at increased output across the board if he stays healthy this year and that’s what I’m looking for out of the 28-year-old Cub. If he improves his success on the bases (64% last yr; 61% in Japan), a truly special season could be on tap, but his success doesn’t hinge on that.

  • Interestingly, all three of the Cubs’ outfielders (Ian Happ, 25; Cody Bellinger, 44) were in the top 44. There could be as many as 90 everyday “starting” outfielders in baseball, so by that logic, the Cubs have a pretty good trio! For fantasy purposes, anyway. And if all three perform up to their abilities or a tick over, that’s going to go a longggg way to helping the Cubs surprise with an above-average overall offense.
  • That did get me thinking about the Cubs’ outfield for non-fantasy purposes, though, and when you start eyeballing the league, the Cubs actually do have a top-half-of-the-league group of starters. In the NL Central, I might take the Cardinals’ group over the Cubs (mostly because I fear Jordan Walker’s arrival), but that’s it. Probably one of the better groups in the NL this year.
  • The rub, though, is that the depth behind the three starters is currently open to significant questions if there’s an injury. We don’t know if Nelson Velazquez is more than a lefty masher, we don’t know if Ben DeLuzio is even a big league bench guy, we don’t know if Christopher Morel is going to play much in the outfielder, we don’t know if Brennen Davis is going to be in a physical place to fill in if necessary, we don’t know when Alexander Canario will be back, we don’t know how well utility guys like Zach McKinstry or Miles Mastrobuoni would fill in for a longer time in the outfield, we don’t know if Darius Hill or Yonathan Perlaza are big leaguers, etc.
  • It’s weird to say, because we know the outfield is a strength of the system long-term, but for 2023, the Cubs really need good health in the outfield among the starters. The best coverage they have is probably at a corner spot if they had an injury and Trey Mancini moved out there semi-regularly, but you’d prefer him to be available to DH and play 1B.
  • Ben Clemens writes about the year-to-year stickiness of 95th percentile exit velocity (i.e., a guy’s hardest hit chunk of batted balls), and how rare it is for that to meaningfully change for a guy during his career. And since we know that, all else equal, it’s really good to hit the ball really hard, it is increasingly seeming like 95th percentile exit velocity data is pretty useful. Now we just need to find an accessible source for that data without having to run massive data scripts …
  • Speaking of the importance of hitting the ball hard, here’s a thing I found while trying to see if I could locate EV95 anywhere – 13.4% of Christopher Morel’s batted balls qualified as a Barrel. That was the 21st highest rate in all of baseball in 2022, just behind Matt Olson, and just ahead of Julio Rodriguez.
  • And speaking of Morel:
  • Morel will have a chance to win the everyday third base job, because the offensive upside there is obviously significant. The questions are whether he’s sorted out the throwing issues he was having at third, whether the Cubs still want to get regular time at third for Patrick Wisdom and Zach McKinstry, and whether the Cubs want Morel to move around more because they believe that’s where his highest value is. Injuries will play a part, too, of course. I suppose the point here is only to not forget that Morel’s bat clearly has “starter” level upside.
  • Oh, but back to the EV95 thing for a moment (though the Morel-Taylor super utility connection would’ve also been a good transition) – as hinted at by Lance Brozdowski, although it’s currently rare for the number to change year-to-year for players … what if it didn’t have to be:
  • I still remember when the prevailing wisdom was that you could not add multiple MPH to your fastball after you were physically matured. Just didn’t happen and couldn’t be done. Then people realized … oh, actually, you can … and everything changed over the last 20 years.
  • All Amazon devices are on a Valentine’s sale, which is a connection I don’t quite get, but a sale is a sale. #ad
  • Everybody is pumped about Opening Day coming, but Manny Machado looks deeply concerned for some reason:
  • written by

    Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

    more cubs news

    Cubs Outfielders Snagging Extra Outs All Over the Place

    We all know that Seiya Suzuki has made some high-profile mistakes in right field the last couple years, but he does still occasionally make the odd great play, too. For example, throwing out Matt Carpenter at home on this play:...

    Royals Jump the Reliever Trade Market, Acquire Hunter Harvey from the Nationals

    This is a pretty significant trade for the pre-Draft period, with the Royals acquiring Hunter Harvey from the Nationals for a Competitive Balance A pick (after the first round) and infield prospect Cayden Wallace. https://twitter.com/Royals/status/1812275939285291351 Wallace, 22, is a top-ten...

    Miguel Amaya Homers As Part of a Four-Run, Two-Out Rally

    Tonight's game might be a barnburner at this rate, so it's a good thing the Cubs really turned it on in the second inning with two outs. Miguel Amaya got things started with a two-run homer: https://twitter.com/Cubs/status/1812287912328802556 And Nico Hoerner...

    Pre-Gamin’: Cubs at Cardinals (7:15 CT) – Lineups, Broadcast Info, Game Thread

    CUBS LINEUP — The Cubs dropped the first game of this double-header to snap their five-game winning streak and end their last-ditch bid to finish the "first half" at an even .500. The best they can do now is one...

    Enhanced Box Score (Game 1): Cardinals 11, Cubs 3 – July 13, 2024

    Well, this game was pretty much over before it started. The Cubs got the early lead on a Seiya Suzuki first inning home run (I guess we'll call him the Ankin Law "Making It Personal" Player of the Game), but...

    Pre-Gamin’: Cubs at Cardinals (1:15 CT) – Lineups, Broadcast Info, Game Thread

    CUBS LINEUP — Nobody move, nobody breathe. This isn't even an intro. It's just text on a page. (Turns out I am superstitious). Chicago Cubs Lineup: Nico Hoerner, 2B Michael Busch, 1B Seiya Suzuki, RF Ian Happ, LF Chris Morel,...

    Cubs Roster Moves: Little to the IL, Roberts and Assad Return

    In advance of today's double-header, the Cubs made a couple roster moves (with the possibility of making another in-between games if necessary). As anticipated, Luke Little is immediately going on the IL after leaving last night's game with a shoulder...

    Hendricks Owns the Cardinals, Complicated Bullpen Talk, Rumble, Alcántara, Suriel, and Other Cubs Bullets

    [BN_drinks] The thinking coming into these seven games against the Orioles and Cardinals was that the Cubs had to win AT LEAST five games for the front office to be justified in punting the buy-sell decision for another week or...

    Wake Up and Watch the Cubs Take the First Game of the Cardinals Series

    This weekend could wind up wildly important to the Cubs' Trade Deadline plans, particularly after sweeping the Orioles in Baltimore and keeping hopes alive. So far so good, as the Cubs bumped their winning streak to five by beating the...

    Enhanced Box Score: Cubs 5, Cardinals 1 – July 12, 2024

    The Cubs keep on rolling, with their fifth straight win. In theory, that was the toughest match-up of this Cardinals series, too, with Sonny Gray generally pitching very well, and Kyle Hendricks having struggled. I don't know how he does...

    Latest News

    NASCAR Pocono Odds and Picks: It’s Toyota or Bust at the Great American Getaway 400

    Engines are revving and anticipation is at a fever pitch as Pocono Raceway gears up for the Great American Getaway 400 presented by VISITPA. This NASCAR Cup Series race, the crown jewel of a tripleheader weekend, is set to roar...

    Seattle Storm vs. Atlanta Dream: Start Time, Streaming Live, TV Channel, How to Watch

    The Atlanta Dream (7-15) will attempt to break a six-game losing streak when they visit the Seattle Storm (15-8) on Sunday, July 14, 2024 at Climate Pledge Arena. The matchup airs at 6:00 PM ET on FOX13+, Prime Video, and...

    Where to Watch Argentina vs. Colombia: Copa America 2024 TV Channel, Start Time and Live Stream

    The 2024 Copa America final is set for 8:00 PM ET on July 14, with Argentina going head to head against Colombia at Hard Rock Stadium. Argentina eliminated Canada in its semifinal game, while Colombia grabbed the win against Uruguay.You'll...

    Dodgers vs. Tigers: Free Live Stream, TV Channel, How to Watch

    The Los Angeles Dodgers (56-40), led by Shohei Ohtani, visit Riley Greene and the Detroit Tigers (46-50) at 1:40 PM ET on Sunday.The article below will provide you with everything you need to watch Los Angeles take on Detroit.When is...

    Storm vs Dream: Best Bets, Player Props & Computer Picks – July 14

    The Atlanta Dream (7-15) will hope to break a four-game road slide when taking on the Seattle Storm (15-8) on Sunday, July 14, 2024 at Climate Pledge Arena, airing at 6:00 PM ET.If you are trying to gain an edge...

    Giants vs. Twins: Injury Report, Updates & Probable Starters – July 14

    On Sunday, the Minnesota Twins (54-41) are visiting the San Francisco Giants (46-50), at 4:05 PM ET, in the final game of a three-game set.Curious about who's playing for the Giants and the Twins? Keep scrolling to get full injury...

    Braves vs. Padres: Injury Report, Updates & Probable Starters – July 14

    In the final game of a three-game set at PETCO Park, the Atlanta Braves (52-42) play the San Diego Padres (50-48), Sunday at 4:10 PM ET.Looking to see who's available to play for the Braves and the Padres? Keep reading...

    Orioles vs. Yankees Probable Starting Pitchers – July 14

    The Baltimore Orioles (57-38) look to end to a five-game skid as they host the New York Yankees (58-39) on Sunday at 11:35 AM ET.The Orioles will give the nod to Dean Kremer (4-5) against the Yankees and Carlos Rodon...

    Storm vs Dream Prediction: Picks, Live Odds & Moneyline – July 14

    The Atlanta Dream (7-15) will look to turn around a six-game losing streak when they visit the Seattle Storm (15-8) on Sunday, July 14, 2024 at Climate Pledge Arena. The game airs at 6:00 PM ET on FOX13+, Prime Video,...

    Diamondbacks vs. Blue Jays: Start Time, Streaming Live, TV Channel, How to Watch

    Ketel Marte and the Arizona Diamondbacks (48-47) host Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the Toronto Blue Jays (43-51) on Sunday, with first pitch at 4:10 PM ET.See how to watch the Arizona-Toronto matchup below.When is Diamondbacks vs. Blue Jays and when...

    more cubs news