Cubs Roster Moves: Christopher Morel Called Up, Nelson Velazquez Optioned Out (UPDATE)
UPDATE: The moves are now official. Christopher Morel has been called up from Triple-A Iowa, and it is indeed Nelson Velazquez who is being optioned out to make room.
Morel, 23, figures to move around a bit with the big league team, but they are going to want to know if his slightly new swing and obscene hard contact rate from Iowa is going to carry forward. I hope he plays almost every day at one spot or another.
Velazquez, 24, started playing almost never over the past week and a half, and he wasn’t producing in those limited opportunities. It was time to let him get back to regular playing time at Iowa, and then you cross the next bridge when it comes. Moving him out is less about not feeling he’s a big league player, and more just the reality of the Cubs’ roster considerations at the moment. Velazquez still has plenty of time ahead of him in the big leagues.
*Original post follows*
I wrote this morning about how the Cubs may be closing in on a sensible time to bring up hot-hitting utility man Christopher Morel, given Patrick Wisdom’s deep slump and Nelson Velazquez’s limited usage. And if Morel’s literal physical presence is a signal, the Cubs think the time is right, too.
This is definitely Christopher Morel:
So, if Morel is at Wrigley Field right now, he’s either about to be called up, or he’s there in case the Cubs want to make a roster move today or tomorrow (the Iowa Cubs do not play today). I’m presuming he’s being called up, and if I had to guess, it would be Morel being swapped out for Velazquez. I doubt the Cubs are ready to move on from Eric Hosmer – right or wrong – and they’ll wait to option Miguel Amaya until Yan Gomes officially returns.
Of note: if the Cubs do add Morel today, as it sure seems like they’re going to, then it’ll be a test of Jed Hoyer’s comments on Morel’s playing time. Here’s how Hoyer put it on Friday:
“Chris is playing awesome, and he’s obviously great in the clubhouse. And he’s going to have a huge impact on this team. I do think he’s benefiting from playing every day. When there’s a path to playing a lot, I think it’s no question he’ll be up here.
“He really sparked this last year. I know he can have an impact, but we want to make sure he’s coming and playing every day. Having him come and not get those at-bats and not get a chance to really participate on a regular basis, I don’t think that’s the right thing for him or for us.”
I don’t think the Cubs would just hand Morel the third base job 100% of the time, but I think he could get a whole lot of starts there, and then maybe once a week in the outfield, plus an occasional start in the middle infield. That could give him, what, a start in 2/3 of the games? That would be “regular” playing time in my book.
At Iowa, the 23-year-old Morel is hitting a ridiculous .330/.425/.730/184 wRC+, albeit with a 30.6% K rate. Morel has been taking his walks, but the strikeouts are certainly still a concern. His power is unquestioned, though, because when he makes contact, he’s been absolutely crushing the ball.
UPDATE: It isn’t just a visit to the city. Morel is being called up for tonight’s game:
No news yet on the corresponding move, but I’ll stick with my Velazquez guess. He can get regular starts back at Iowa for now, and Morel can take over 4th outfielder duties (together with lots of action at third base).