The Chicago Cubs made a series of roster moves prior to Tuesday night’s blowout victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates (box score). The two most notable among them included placing veteran outfielder Jason Heyward on the injured list and promoting utility player Christopher Morel from the minors.
As the headline above suggests, Morel went on to make his big-league debut in memorable fashion. He pinch-hit for Patrick Wisdom in the eighth inning, and became the ninth Cubs player in history to record a home run in his first big-league at-bat, according to the research conducted by MLB.com’s Sarah Langs.
Statcast’s data had the ball leaving his bat with a 111.3 mph exit velocity and carrying an estimated 417 feet. Both marks, by the way, were the highest recorded by any player during the contest. Take a look:
Morel was the first Cubs rookie to accomplish the feat since Willson Contreras did it in 2016. Coincidentally, the Cubs had seen two other players, Jorge Soler (2014) and Starlin Castro (2010), do it in recent years. Prior to Castro, the Cubs hadn’t seen a rookie hitter connect for a home run in their first big-league at-bat since 1992. And before that, not since 1983.
Morel, who won’t celebrate his 23rd birthday until late June, had spent the season in Double-A Tennessee. In 122 trips to the plate, he’d hit .306/.380/.565 with seven home runs, five doubles, and three steals on six attempts. The Cubs had played him primarily in center field, but he had also started games at shortstop and third base.
Morel was not ranked by Baseball America as one of the Cubs’ top 30 prospects. FanGraphs, however, had ranked Morel 16th, noting that “a grooved, long swing will likely limit Morel’s ability to make contact and prevent him from being a true everyday player.”