This trio could soon shine as everyday Cubs

Morel, McKinstry, Young guide series-opening win over Rockies

September 17th, 2022

CHICAGO -- The Cubs know what they have in . They brought him into the fold to provide an experienced impact arm for the rotation, and the veteran has delivered consistently in his debut campaign with the club.

On Friday afternoon, Stroman turned in seven quality innings, leading the North Siders to a 2-1 victory over the Rockies at Wrigley Field. As the Cubs continue to evaluate roster pieces with 2023 in mind, Stroman is not one of the players under the microscope.

"We have a bunch of younger guys," Stroman said. "Especially guys who haven't necessarily established themselves at the big league level, but are going to be guys that will establish themselves and be everyday big leaguers, and be guys that have big years.

"So that's what you're seeing in the guys that we're bringing up, is they're getting an opportunity. And when you have an opportunity to play every single day, you can kind of showcase your true potential and the true star in you."

Here are three such storylines from Friday's win:

1. Monitoring Morel's defense

As Nico Hoerner rests a sore right triceps -- a setback sustained on a diving play up the middle on Sunday against the Giants -- rookie has been getting a look at shortstop and has shown off his dynamic range and powerful throwing arm.

"You can tell when he gets there," Cubs manager David Ross said, "it's just like, ‘Oh, wow, that's where he belongs. Right there in the middle of the infield.’ The movement patterns, the reads, the jumps, the arm stroke, the footwork -- everything is a little bit more set up, it feels like, for the middle infield."

Due to the construction of the Cubs' roster, the versatile Morel has mostly played center field and second base this season. He has received an increasing amount of innings at third, but there have been growing pains at that spot when it comes to throwing accuracy.

Up the middle -- whether at second, or now at short -- Morel has looked like a natural. That held true on Friday with a handful of strong plays, including gliding up the middle in the sixth inning to scoop an Alan Trejo grounder. Morel gloved the roller, spun and completed the throw to first for the out.

Stroman, who carried a no-hitter into the sixth, called those types of plays "momentum-shifters" and raved about Morel's defense.

"Whatever position I've got to play, I've got to give my best," Morel said. "Every time I go and make good plays, I tell Nico, 'I need to cover your space really [well]. I know it's your space, but I need to be good for you there.'"

2. Giving McKinstry regular at-bats

When the Cubs acquired from the Dodgers at the Trade Deadline, he came to Chicago as a rarely used utility man. In his final three-plus weeks with L.A., he had a mere seven plate appearances.

"It's hard to be a role player," Ross said.

With second baseman Nick Madrigal on the injured list, the Cubs have been able to give McKinstry consistent playing time at that spot of late. While the infielder's overall numbers have still lagged (.658 OPS in 32 games for Chicago), his play has ticked up recently.

On Friday, McKinstry sent a pitch from Rockies starter Germán Márquez to the bricks and ivy in center in the first inning and legged out a triple. In the fifth, he connected with a 1-2 curveball low in the zone and slashed it out to left-center for a leadoff homer.

Those hits gave McKinstry an 8-for-18 showing with two homers, two triples and a double in his last four starts for the Cubs.

"The home run to left-center was pretty impressive," Ross said. "He's driven the ball pretty consistently. I think it's just timing, confidence, everything getting synced up. And he's played good defense."

3. Young latest to make MLB debut

When first baseman Jared Young pulled a pitch deep into the right-field corner in the eighth and hustled into second with a double -- marking the first hit of his MLB career -- the crowd inside Wrigley Field was not the only audience celebrating.

The locker room for Triple-A Iowa "erupted in cheers," according to a tweet by broadcaster Alex Cohen. Young, who was picked in the 15th round of the 2017 Draft and called up to the Majors on Wednesday, smiled wide when he heard about the scene.

“I love those guys. I really do," Young said. "I've become insanely close with all of them. That means a ton. Those are my guys."

The 27-year-old Young is one among a long list of internal players under evaluation for 40-man roster decisions this winter. For now, he can enjoy realizing his big league dreams, becoming the 16th player to make his MLB debut this year for the Cubs.

"You always love that stuff," Ross said. "He's really excited for this opportunity, and we're excited to watch him play."

Young said he had at least 15 friends and family in attendance, including a brother he had not seen in a couple of years. The bulk of his cheering section made the trek from his hometown of Prince George, British Columbia, Canada.

"That flight from Prince George to Chicago was probably a pretty fun one," Young said.