Welcome back to another edition of Top Dynasty Keepers.

Last week I wrote about Nolan Gorman, a top 100 prospect who entered the 2022 season with high expectations. After being promoted to the majors he performed well only to have opposing pitchers adjust their game plans, leading Gorman to ultimately fall short of the high expectations people had of him only to rebound this year and now living up to those expectations.

This week I am going to focus on another player who has followed a similar path in Christopher Morel of the Chicago Cubs. Morel burst onto the scene last year only to ultimately struggle greatly down the stretch but is now performing well.

Road to the Show

Powerful Bat

Christopher Morel was signed by the Cubs in 2015 out of the Dominican Republic for $800,00 but had his pro debut delayed until 2017 after suffering a cut arm in a household accident after he signed. After spending the 2020 COVID season at the Cubs’ alternate training site and the Instructional League, he was added to the 40-man roster ahead of the 2021 season.

One of the main reasons Chicago signed Morel was the power he saw in his bat due to excellent bat speed that produces a lot of high exit velocities – and home runs. The power was not immediately apparent when he first started his career in the minors. But since 2021, he has shown off his power in both the minors and majors and doing so to all fields.

Speed and Versatility as Well

While Morel’s power is a great tool, he also has the ability to swipe a bag. An aggressive base runner, he stole 58 bases in 356 career minor league games and has added another 11 in 127 major league games.

In the field, Morel has displayed a strong arm and the ability to play multiple positions. With Chicago, he has played in left field and center field as well as second base, shortstop, and third base.

Christopher Morel

2022 113 379 16 47 10 .235 .308 .433
2023 14 57 9 15 1 .333 .367 .860
2-year 127 436 25 62 11 .248 .315 .489
162 Game Avg 556 32 79 14 .248 .315 .489

Showing his Strengths…

Unlike Gorman, who was a top-100 prospect for several years, Morel was never ranked as a top 100 prospect. Instead, he slowly worked his way through the system until getting his shot with the Cubs last year.

In 113 games, Morel didn’t have a great slash line (.235/.308/.433), but slugged 16 homers, drove in 47 runs, and swiped 10 bases. Not a horrible rookie season from a power numbers standpoint.

…And his Weaknesses

But there were some obvious flaws to Morel’s game at the plate. The most obvious was his propensity to strike out. In 425 plate appearances, Morel had a 32.2% strikeout rate. But that number shouldn’t have come as a surprise. In 1,479 plate appearances in the minors, Morel had a 24% strikeout rate against inferior pitchers.

Against fastballs, Morel was decent, hitting .274 with a .503 slugging percentage (though with a 34% strikeout rate). But against breaking balls, Morel hit only .197 with a .368 slugging percentage and a 33% strikeout rate. He wasn’t much better against offspeed pitches either, hitting .190 with a .357 slugging percentage. When making contact, despite hitting 16 homers, Morel struggled to make solid contact on a consistent basis. His average exit velocity was 87.9 mph with a Hard Hit% of 40%.

Pitchers Adjusted

2022 Splits

May 14 13 62 53 9 15 3 1 2 5 5 2 8 14 .283 .387 .491 .878 26
June 26 26 123 113 21 32 7 1 5 15 2 1 7 42 .283 .320 .496 .815 56
July 24 21 88 76 10 17 3 2 2 9 2 3 11 23 .224 .330 .395 .724 30
August 23 22 72 71 9 13 2 0 4 7 0 0 1 29 .183 .194 .380 .575 27
Sept/Oct 26 23 80 66 6 12 4 0 3 11 1 1 11 29 .182 .308 .379 .687 25

When Christopher Morel first joined the Cubs, he had great success at the plate, as you can see from the stats above. In May he slashed .283/.387/.491 and basically matched those numbers in June. Through his first 40 games with Chicago, he had seven home runs, 20 RBI, and seven steals. Doing the quick math projection method, that would be 28 homers, 80 RBI, and 28 steals over a full season. Who wouldn’t love to have a player like that on their roster?

But then came July, August, and September. During those three months, Morel’s production fell off the cliff. His slash line decreased each month while his strikeouts remained high. While the strikeout rate was “only” 26% in July, it was 40% in August and 36% in September. August was just a horrible month all around for Morel as he slugged only .194 and had only one walk in 72 plate appearances.

What a Difference a Year Makes

Morel did not make the Opening Day roster this season, but he didn’t let that affect him. At Triple-A Iowa, all he did in 29 games was prove that he no longer had anything to prove in the minors, slashing .330/.425/.730 with 11 homers, 31 RBI, and four steals. His 1.155 OPS ranked third across Triple-A, though he still struck out a lot (30% rate).

Since joining the Cubs, Morel has continued to mash at the plate. Entering Friday, he was slashing .333/.367/.860 – that’s right, an .860 slugging percentage! He already has nine homers in only 57 at-bats. Morel is consistently hitting the ball hard with an average EV of 93.6 mph, leading to a Hard Hit% of 60%.

The Concerns

It is easy to fall in love with Morel and those power numbers. But the strikeouts are still there as he currently has a 36.7% strikeout rate, and his walk rate is only 5%. And will he continue to be a .300 hitter?

History says no. His career minor league slash line is .250/.323/.441. So if you are in a points league, that is going to be a problem when it comes to the future of Morel on your roster.

Morel’s Future

When it comes to the immediate future for Christopher Morel, the decision there is easy – grab him if you can. The power is real and it appears he has made adjustments to the plate when it comes to the breaking ball. While a small sample size, he is hitting .438 against breaking balls with only a 17.6% strikeout rate.

Long-term, what is Morel’s role with the team? He may not ever become a regular “starter” at any one position, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t useful. His role may be more like the role Ben Zobrist filled with the Rays and Cubs back in the day – play nearly every day but at a different position. Players who can be slotted into multiple positions are gold in dynasty leagues.

I don’t think Christopher Morel will be a .333 hitter by the end of the year, but I love his power and his ability to play anywhere in the infield except first base as well as center field/outfield (in Yahoo leagues. Only second base and center field in ESPN leagues for now). It never hurts to have a power-hitting utility player on your dynasty team.