The Cubs signed Christopher Morel out of the Dominican Republic in 2015 and he’s made steady progress through the system. He was added to the 40-man roster in November 2020, and played most of 2021 at Double-A Tennessee, with a few games at Triple-A Iowa.
This year, Morel has played 28 games at Tennessee and batted .306/.380/.565 (33-for-108) with seven home runs while playing primarily center field (18 games), with some time also at third base and shortstop. Before this year he was primarily a third baseman in the system, and he’s also played in some major-league spring games the last couple of years.
Tuesday, the Cubs called up Morel to be on the 26-man active roster and placed Jason Heyward on the 10-day injured list.
Heyward didn’t play Monday and made just a one-inning defensive replacement appearance Sunday. After a decent April (.724 OPS), he is batting just .143/.189/.171 (5-for-35) so far in May.
They also called up lefthanded reliever Brandon Hughes, who has dominated so far this year in the minor-league system. With the placement of Heyward on what is likely the COVID-19 list, no 40-man roster move was needed to add Hughes. And in another move, Conner Menez was optioned to Triple-A Iowa.
The 26-year-old Hughes was the Cubs’ 15th-round pick out of Michigan State in 2015 as an outfielder and converted to pitching in 2019. This year, combined between Tennessee and Iowa, Hughes has an 0.00 ERA and 0.480 WHIP (eight baserunners in 16⅔ innings), with 22 strikeouts.
Menez threw a scoreless inning for the Cubs last Friday in Arizona. He's got a good arm and will likely be back, but for now the Cubs want to give Hughes a chance.
I would expect Morel to get some playing time in center field, particularly against lefthanded pitching. As always, we await developments.