When you absolutely have to have a Cub do a kind of adorable yet still annoying gender reveal, David Bote is your man. And he might be the man for the Cubs at second and occasionally third and short, because there’s always a chance that Nico Hoerner stalls out in Iowa and there’s a much bigger chance that Jason Kipnis and Daniel Descalso are still dead. And while he causes more teeth-gnashing amongst Cubs fans for someone who came from basically nowhere and has been fine, if the Cubs had to turn to him it really wouldn’t be the end of the world. And then there are too many who mistake one ultra-dramatic home run for career-long success. There’s so much noise around a bit-part player. Let’s study the star man.
David Bote 2019
127 games, 356 PA
.336 wOBA, 106 wRC+
12.4 BB% 26.1 K%
-1.4 Defensive Runs
Bote had a pretty weird year last term. For one, he was a righty who couldn’t hit lefties, which doesn’t make any goddamn sense but it’s what we’re dealing with. Against right-handed pitchers he had a 115 wRC+, and against southpaws it was 80. Which was the complete opposite of what he did in 2018. So hey, if he could split the difference!. Also, he really started to hit after Joe Maddon had moved him out of the everyday lineup in the second half. And Maddon stopped playing him against lefties in the second half, giving him only 30 ABs against them. Which he did crush, but it’s only 30 ABs so who knows?
It wasn’t hard to figure out where to attack Bote though, as he couldn’t get to high fastballs nor lay off curves in the dirt, which doesn’t make for a very good combination.
Bote graded out as fine at second, though hardly superlative. But as the Brewers proved with the old-dog mobility of Mike Moustakas, you can kind of cover that up with shifts if you’re so inclined. The Cubs didn’t shift as much because Baez covered half the Earth anyway, but it might be something they try. Bote also graded out higher than you’d expect at short when Maddon finally figured out that Baez was dying of exhaustion, which might be something to consider if Hoerner isn’t up for a while.
YES! YES! YES!: For Bote to be more than just scenery, or slightly above scenery, he’s going to have to figure out how to hit a pitch above his waist. We know he has serious power low in the strike zone, and it’s something of a mystery why pitchers keep throwing him pitches there. But even just up in the zone, not above it, and Bote has been pretty much helpless. His desire to catch up to pitches there has made him susceptible to curves that tease being there and then gleefully dive for the sanctuary of his toes and his whiffs. If that continues to be a gaping hole, then this is his limit. If he shortens his swing a bit and can get there, than his plus-on base skills play even better.
And fuck, if you take simply his .362 OBP last year, put it in the nine-spot ahead of Bryant in the leadoff spot, he’ll score a fair amount of runs you’d have to believe. Really, you could do a whole lot worse as a placeholder for Hoerner, however long that might be.
You’re A B+ Player: Bote can’t close up that hole at the top of the zone, pitchers actually read a scouting report every time and his already too-high K-rate for a supporting cast member goes up. And he loses walks, which is what’s keeping him above water overall. Hoerner never claims the second base spot, and we’re left watching two corpses try and ooze their way toward competence between Kipnis and Descalso and Ross has to euthanize them in the 6th inning of some game in July behind a big blue curtain (assuredly sponsored by Sloan). At 27 when the season starts, it’s hard to picture how Bote improves that much but there is some room. He also watches his glove deteriorate and can’t even claim breaking even in the field.
But no matter what, he’ll be part of the Cubs pregame highlight reel for the next five years.
Dragon Or Fickle?: I’m higher on Bote than most, mostly because of the walks and the passable glove and occasional power. I don’t think he’ll completely split his ’18 and ’19 and be useful against both handed pitchers, but I also think there’s a decent chance he’s not an abortion against either as well. If he can just take high pitches the other way for singles enough to not have to see curveballs or get fastballs lower, he could end up being a real weapon. He’s clearly a player you don’t want to be in the lineup every day, but you’d rather see him than Descalso or Kipnis. If Hoerner can claim what’s rightfully his relatively quickly, then having Bote cycle in at a couple spots two or three times a week is ideal. And that’s probably what you’ll get.