Morel becoming Cubs' new magic man

June 19th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Jordan Bastian’s Cubs Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Welcome back to the Cubs Beat newsletter. Jordan Bastian has covered baseball for since 2005, including the Cubs since the 2019 season. This week,’s Tim Stebbins is pinch-hitting while Bastian preps for the upcoming London Series.

CHICAGO -- Over a little more than a calendar year in the big leagues,  has endeared himself to Cubs fans with his high-energy personality and electric abilities on the diamond.

The 23-year-old provided many examples of the latter during the Cubs’ homestand last week, including one performance that reminded manager David Ross of a certain former Cubs shortstop.

“There's energy, there's lightning,” Ross said of Morel after Thursday’s 7-2 win over the Pirates. “There's a lot of reminders of Javy [Báez], for me.”

Of course, Báez -- the World Series champion, two-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner nicknamed “El Mago” for his magical exploits on the diamond -- is one of a kind and has reached incredible heights in this game. Morel said as much, too.

“Javier Báez is a superstar already,” Morel said through an interpreter. “I'm working towards becoming a superstar and eventually could come there. That definitely feels great coming from our manager. Just trying to get to that level at the moment. Not everybody can play like El Mago.”

But Morel also is making things happen this season, including his performance on Thursday. He went 3-for-3 with a triple and flashed some daring baserunning, a la Báez.

In the fifth inning, Morel ripped a 103.4-mph line drive that deflected off third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes’ glove for a single. Nick Madrigal followed with a safety squeeze bunt, driving in Cody Bellinger.

Morel took an aggressive turn around second base on the play and was caught in no-man’s land. He briefly stopped, raced to third and slid in safely.

Mistake? Heads-up? Whatever you want to call it, it helped Morel score. There were two outs in the inning, and he crossed the plate moments later on a fielding error by Pittsburgh shortstop Tucupita Marcano.

“Sometimes the elusiveness happens,” Ross said of Morel. “Like when he rounds second there, probably not ideal baserunning technique, but he makes things happen. It's the thing that gives the manager heartburn, and then it works out, and you’re cheering him and clapping and high-fiving him.

“It’s that young, energetic, fast-twitch, athletic player. There's real thunder in there. As he continues to mature and his baseball IQ continues to grow and the passion in which and energy in which he plays with, he’s going to be a really good, dynamic player.”

So far, so good.