Morel of the Story

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Every great story has an even better message. Be kind to others? Always be yourself? Expect the unexpected? Christopher Morel is writing his own story, and though it’s a work in progress in the earliest chapters, it’s certain to eventually be a legend. The Cubs rookie is turning pages and turning heads, with just 50 games played in his young career. Ranked as the number 21 prospect in the Cubs system, Morel is swinging a great bat and has earned a .270 /.338/.490 triple-slash line, including three triples, nine homers, 25 RBI and seven steals. The 23-year-old also possesses fast legs to accomplish those swiped bags; he holds a sprint speed regarded to be in the highest percentile in the major leagues.

Morel is mostly a power pull hitter with his homers, though he has gone to opposite field once in 2022. He can also place the barrel on the ball, and with his hitting, accomplished a high max exit velocity of 112.9 MPH. Making contact seems to be effortless for Morel as he has a top xwOBACON of .499, again in the upper echelons of the league. A 130 wRC+ shows some excellent production, as he leads all rookies in this category; he also holds an impressive .891 OPS versus right-handed pitching.

This week, the rookie hit his ninth homer of the year on Thursday night against the Dodgers, off a formidable pitcher in Tony Gonsolin. He also homered in three consecutive games at the beginning of July, flying 436, 440, and 429 feet respectively.

All stories will have a resolvable conflict. Morel does have a high strikeout rate, and in the lower percentiles when it comes to whiffing. Offspeed pitches tend to be the pitch types he struggles with the most, and has a .176 batting average against changeups.

Morel’s versatility is also something that fantasy managers will love about him. He’s started games at shortstop, second base, third base, and center field as he rightfully should be in the Cubs lineup often. The Morel of the story here is, if he's available in your league, go ahead and pick him up.

Notable Performances

Spencer Strider can’t seem to be hit lately. The righty pitcher was a former reliever for the Braves, but joined the rotation and has been lights out ever since. In eight starts, he’s earned a sparkly 2.83 ERA, 0.94 WHIP. What’s the most interesting is his 65 strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings pitched. His three-inning, nine strikeout performance on Thursday was the talk of the league, and rightfully so. The hard-throwing righty is the first rookie in MLB's Modern Era (since 1900) with 11+ strikeouts and two or fewer hits allowed in consecutive starts.

Luke Voit is doing his thing again, and if you’ve heard the phrase “this is the Luke Voit game,” on Twitter, you’ll know that he comes up big in certain games. Voit returned from the injured list on May 10, and since then, he's hitting a respectable .246/.323/.467 with ten homers, 14 doubles, and 30 RBI across 223 plate appearances. In his last seven games, he’s slashing .240/.367/.440 with a homer and two RBI.

Shohei Ohtani might as well have a permanent section in this column as he’s perpetually impressive as the AL MVP race shapes up. He tossed a 10 strikeout gem against the Marlins on Wednesday. Ohtani has now racked up double-digit strikeout efforts in three straight games, and has now registered double-digit strikeouts in six total starts this year. He holds a 2.44 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and a 111/20 K/BB ratio in 81 innings pitched over 14 starts this year.

Are we talking about C.J. Cron enough? I don’t think we are. The first baseman has racked numbers good enough to receive his very first all-star nod. While his numbers are significantly better at Coors Field, they’re admittedly functional enough to piece together a great first half. He has a 1.085 OPS at Coors versus .695 on the rowad. However, Cron has always hit well enough to register high exit velocities almost every year of his career; he’s also racked up a .383 wOBA to place him in the upper 5% of the league, and an impressive .387 wOBA against fastballs.

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Injury Report

Wander Franco is going on the 10-day injured list, to what Rays manager Kevin Cash thinks is a hamate fracture. If it is indeed a hamate fracture, he will likely be out for six to eight weeks. The 21-year-old will be evaluated Monday. Also going on the injured list in Rays land is Kevin Kiermaier, who is battling a nagging injury to his left hip. He was forced to leave Saturday's game with hip inflammation; Brett Phillips is expected to start in Kiermaier’s stead.

Some exciting news: Jacob deGrom could be coming back very soon. deGrom will make his next rehab start on Wednesday or Thursday for Triple-A Syracuse. deGrom looks to be on track to make his season debut possibly before the All-Star break. He did well in his last rehab start in Single-A St. Lucie on Friday, with six strikeouts over three scoreless innings. He’s been in recovery from a stress reaction in his right scapula and appears to be progressing well.

The Astros placed elite slugger Yordan Álvarez on the 10-day injured list with hand soreness. Álvarez had been playing through the hand issue, and apparently it had been getting worse. He should get some well-needed rest with the All-Star break on the horizon, and should be right again for the home series versus the Yankees.

Honor Roll

Jesus Aguilar (3-for-4, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI on Saturday), Carlos Rodón (9 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 12 K on Saturday), Reid Detmers (6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K on Friday), Michael Harris (4-for-4 HR, 2B, 3 R, 4 RBI on Friday), Tony Gonsolin (7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K on Thursday), Darick Hall (2-for-4, 2 R, HR (4), 2 RBI on Thursday), Jorge Polanco (2-for-4, 2 HR, 3 RBI on Wednesday), Luis Severino (6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 K, 0 BB on Wednesday), Cedric Mullins (3-for-4, 2 2B, 3 RBI, 2 R on Tuesday), José Quintana (5 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 7 K on Tuesday), Eric Lauer (6 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 9 K on Monday), Daulton Varsho (3-for-4, 3 RBI, SB on Monday), Triston McKenzie (7 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 7 K on Sunday)

Batting Around

It was Hello Kitty night at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday, and none other than the icon herself threw out the first pitch before the Dodgers took on the Rockies. Perhaps even more fitting - catching Hello Kitty’s ceremonial pitch was none other than the cat man himself, Tony Gonsolin. Though Hello Kitty didn’t necessarily throw a heater right down the middle of the plate, Gonsolin was able to frame the pitch well enough to bring it back in. Gonsolin did not make the start this year for Hello Kitty night, but did start in last year’s Hello Kitty game.

That wraps up another Week that Was; join us next week for more great stories and updates from around Major League Baseball.