Why the Cubs sent Morel to minor leagues to start the season

After a surprising and at times electrifying rookie year, it's a surprise to see Christopher Morel start the season with the Iowa Cubs instead of at Wrigley Field.

Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer went in depth on that decision Thursday.

"The biggest thing was, 'You just need to play every day.' We want to bring him up to play a lot. He may not play one position all the time, but we don't see him as a bench player, we see him as a guy that can move all over and do a lot of things.

"It didn't appear those kind of at-bats would be there for him early in the season. The coaching staff, they really felt strongly they wanted him playing a lot. Having him as a bench option isn't the best thing for his career, and probably not the right thing for the length of the season."

Technically, Morel could have played right field in place of the injured Seiya Suzuki, but the Cubs chose Miles Mastrobuoni for that role. Prior to this season, Mastrobuoni had played in just eight major league games for Tampa Bay.

"(Morel's) versatility provides so much value, it's like Kris Bryant," Hoyer said. "Being able to move him to the outfield, move him to third. A lot of time the value to the team is higher when you can move the guy around. Having really athletic, versatile players does create a ton of value."

During spring training, Morel got the most at-bats of any Cubs player, tied for the team lead with 4 home runs, had a very good OPS of .910, but also had the most strikeouts (24).

"He has some areas he has to improve," manager David Ross said of Morel. "He really put himself on the map last year. That's a representation of the depth we have, sending guys down that are very talented. He'll get off to a great start down in Triple A and be somebody we can call on real soon if something were to come up."

Ross said the expectation in Iowa is for Morel to keep playing multiple positions, but he'll likely be in the infield more often because the roster is loaded with outfielders. As Hoyer pointed out, one injury could change the outlook in a hurry.

"Whatever you think it's going to be like, it won't be," he said. "This game never ceases to surprise you. Different things will happen you haven't thought about. That's why depth is so incredibly valuable, why versatility is so valuable."

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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