Sunday, July 3, 2022

Christopher Morel, Brandon Hughes Called Up For Chicago Cubs

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The injury situation has been a growing concern for the Cubs early into the year.  A few pitchers on the Injured List including left-handed relievers Sean Newcomb and Brad Wieck have resulted in Brandon Hughes being called up from Triple-A Iowa.



Nick Madrigal, Nico Hoerner, Clint Frazier, and Michael Hermosillo are all on the IL as well.  Christopher Morel gets the call up from Double-A Tennessee to help fill in the infield and outfield.  We’ll take a look at their seasons so far and what to expect.

Christopher Morel

Christopher Morel is the Cubs’ 21st ranked prospect according to mlb.com.  The 22-year-old was signed for $800,000 in 2015.  A few years later we signed his brother Rafael, another middle infielder who played with the Arizona Rookie team in 2021.

I mentioned Christopher Morel in a December article outlining how some Cubs were playing in the Dominican Winter League.  Morel was playing with José Quintana and Melky Cabrera in that season.  He played fairly well but in the small sample size, it was clear he needed to hit a little bit better.  So far in the 2022 campaign with Tennessee, he has done that and more.

In 29 games with the Smokies, Morel has slashed .306/.380/.565 for an OPS of .945!  This is a huge improvement from the LIDOM season where he recorded an OPS of .674.  He has added power with 7 home runs and 20 RBI.

Last year with Tennessee and Iowa he hit 18 home runs with an OPS of .729.  He hit very consistently for the entire 2021 season and has carried that over to the 2022 season, hopefully, he sees success at the Major League level.

Defense

With Aguilas Cibaenas this winter, Morel played mostly at second base.  He also played shortstop, third, and the three outfield positions; which demonstrated his versatility.  This carried onto Tennessee, where he has played mostly center field.  Morel has also played 3B and SS with the Smokies.

In Centerfield with Tennessee, he has recorded a fielding percentage of 94.6%, adding an assist as well in 37 chances.  It will be interesting to see how Morel does defensively, and we should expect him to get time at second, short, third, and center field.

Brandon Hughes

Brandon Hughes was drafted in 2017 as an outfielder out of Michigan State, but in 2019 made the switch to pitching.   In 2017 and 2018 Hughes struggled to find his way with the bat and found moderate success as a pitcher in 2019.

Hughes pitched Rookie-level to High-A South Bend in 2019, but following the canceled 2020 season he accelerated through the minor league levels.  Last year, the left-hander pitched in 8 games with South Bend before a promotion to Tennessee.

At the end of the 2021 season, Hughes had appeared in 26 games between South Bend and Tennessee.  He recorded an ERA of 1.71 and a WHIP of 1.14 in 42 innings.  60 strikeouts and 17 walks for K/BB ratio of 3.53 were concerning, but Hughes has improved on that this year.

Brandon Hughes had five appearances with Tennessee before being promoted to Iowa for another five appearances.  So far, he pitched 16.2 innings and has not allowed a run.  5 hits and 3 walks led to a WHIP of 0.48.  22 strikeouts to go with the 3 walks have improved the K/BB ratio from 3.53 to 7.33 in a year!

Expectations?

Both players have been given the opportunity to show what they can do as a result of injuries in front of them.  The expression, “The best ability is availability”, is a little corny but it is also true.  With fewer left-handers than right-handers, Hughes absolutely has the chance to carve out a long-term spot in the Cubs’ bullpen.  If he continues the tear he has been on since 2021, it would be nearly impossible to argue he does not deserve a spot.

The situation for Morel is pretty similar.  He has versatility and can play multiple defensive positions, and if he is going to bring an OPS north of .850 to the MLB roster, why would you not want that everyday?  We have seen Alfonso Rivas play his way to earning a more consistent role after having success in his opportunities, ideally this trend continues with Christopher Morel and Brandon Hughes.

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