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Opening Day is this Thursday. Finally, baseball season is really back. I can’t believe the offseason flew by that fast.
But now that Opening Day is upon us, we all have questions about what the 2023 season will bring. Will Ian Happ repeat his breakout 2022 performance? Will Dansby Swanson and Nico Hoerner be the best up-the-middle duo in the majors? When will some of the Cubs’ top prospects make their big league debuts?
Those are a few of the questions I have myself, but I know the CHGO Diehards have some, too. And I did my best to answer them. So, for the Diehards only, here’s a new mailbag as we head into the beginning of the regular season.
gaross18 asks: What will Christopher Morel’s primary position be in Triple-A?
It became official Monday: Morel was optioned to Triple-A Iowa.
That’s not a total shock. While he spent most of 2022 in the majors out of necessity due to his versatility, he’s also played a grand total of 10 games at Triple-A. He’s a talented player, but there are flaws in his game. Giving him everyday playing time in Iowa should really help in his development.
As far as his primary position, I don’t know that he’ll necessarily have a set spot. Were Seiya Suzuki expected to miss a month or more due to his left oblique strain, I could’ve seen Morel getting a lot of time in right field (which realistically could’ve come in the majors instead). Now that Suzuki’s recovery is going faster than expected, there’s probably no need to put Morel in right field all that often, because there are other options who can fill the spot for the time being.
If I were filling out the lineups, I’d give Morel plenty of reps at third base. He wasn’t spectacular there in 2022, and his accuracy was certainly questionable, but it’s still a position without a frontrunner. Nick Madrigal, Patrick Wisdom and Edwin Ríos are expected to form some kind of rotation at third. But can Morel improve enough that he inserts himself into that discussion? We won’t know unless he spends more time at the spot, so that’s where I hope to see him more often.
MattGregory asks: When do you expect to see Brennen Davis, if at all, in 2023?
That Davis was added to the 40-man roster this winter means he’ll likely be at the top of the list should a need arise in the outfield. However, we also have to remember that he lost most of last season in what could’ve been the year he made his debut. It was a pivotal year for his development, but he ended up playing just 53 games between the regular season and the Arizona Fall League. He has to prove he’s healthy and productive before the Cubs even consider bringing him up.
Now, assuming he does prove those things, it’s still hard to project a debut date. There are going to be a few other outfield options who could get the call if it comes in the first few months of the season (Morel and Nelson Velázquez come to mind). If Davis has been tearing up Triple-A once June comes around, though, could he then get the call?
You also have to think about the way the roster is constructed. Suzuki isn’t going anywhere, and I’d lean toward Bellinger finishing the year with the Cubs. But what about Ian Happ? If he’s traded before the deadline, does that open a spot for everyday playing time for Davis?
I’d guess that, if Davis is healthy and performing all year, a summer call-up is realistic. That timeline would take a hit if he suffers another injury or just isn’t playing well, but that’d be my guess at the moment.
MrDBakes asks: Far from the biggest storyline, but does Miles Mastrobuoni have any shot of making the Opening Day roster?
According to reports out of Mesa on Monday, this would be a yes. He played six different positions in some capacity with the Rays’ Triple-A affiliate in 2022, so he’s versatile. His lefty bat and the fact he’s already on the 40-man roster helped his case, too, and he performed pretty well at the plate in Cactus League play and in the World Baseball Classic.
Though much of his career has been spent on the infield, it’s looking increasingly likely that Mastrobuoni will factor into the right-field group while Suzuki is out. It may not end up being an everyday thing, but he can hold his own out there. It seems like that’s the plan for Mastrobuoni at this point.
usm0506 asks: Who will be a surprise call up from Iowa?
gaross18 asks: Name one pitcher who is not on everyone’s radar but will get a shot in the bullpen or rotation this year?
It’ll take some shuffling to get him on the 40-man, but I’d like to see Darius Hill get a shot this year. He’s been solid at the plate since getting drafted in 2019, and he was particularly awesome in 2022 (.314/.359/.453 slash, 9 homers and 53 RBI in 528 at-bats with Tennessee and Iowa). While he will likely fall behind Davis, Pete Crow-Armstrong, Kevin Alcantara, etc., in the outfield pecking order eventually, he may actually be one of the most major league ready outfielders in the system going into 2023. Also, he’s Rule 5 eligible again next winter. It feels like the Cubs need to give him a chance this year.
On the pitching side, I think Ryan Jensen could get a shot as well. That he was added to the 40-man this offseason helps, but the Cubs are also confident his revamped delivery will be effective. It’s a work in progress — he didn’t look great in two spring outings — but the Cubs still have faith that the new delivery will add improved command to go with a pretty nasty arsenal. Though he was optioned to Double-A a couple weeks back, if he performs well to begin the year, a promotion to Iowa could happen soon. And then all that’s left is one more call to the big leagues.
Snewbanks31 asks: Good places to park near the field?
There are random spots all around Wrigleyville if you can get there early enough. Fortunately, I get a pass to the media lot, so I won’t have to worry about that!
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