In just four years, the Cubs’ farm system has gone from one of the best in the league to one of the worst. Obviously this sort of thing happens when your top prospects graduate to the majors or get packaged in trades, and rebuilding the farm when your big league team is a perennial playoff contender is no easy task. So when pleasant surprises develop out of the minor league system and positively contribute to the big league club, it’s both refreshing and a reminder that prospects will always be a bit of a crap-shoot.
Enter David Bote. An 18th round pick all the way back in 2012, Bote spent the majority of his time in the minors as an after thought. Prior to this season, he was ranked the Cubs 14th best prospect — which, for a 25-year-old in a thin farm system — isn’t exactly flattering. While his exit velocity has always impressed, it didn’t always translate into eye-popping numbers, relegating him as a depth piece to be stashed away in case of emergency. But with hard work, and buying into the launch angle revolution, his continued improvement gave him that long-awaited opportunity to play at the highest level.
Paving His Own Way
With little fanfare, Bote made his major league debut on April 21, doubling in his first at-bat in his native Colorado with his family present. It was a surreal moment, and for someone who’s worked tirelessly in the minors to get to the majors, you couldn’t help but feel joy for him as a fan.
Shuttling between Chicago and Iowa since then — primarily as a roster replacement for Ben Zobrist and most-recently Kris Bryant — he’s provided capable defense at second and third base while producing a triple slash of .300/.388/.425, yielding a wRC+ of 116. In short, he’s been exactly what one could hope from a bench player: a team-first approach with defensive versatility and solid offensive numbers.
I get that he’s only played in 19 games, with a mere 49 plate appearances under his belt. I also believe what my eyes tell me: Bote belongs in the big leagues.
Bote’s demeanor and clubhouse presence mean just as much to this team as his contributions on the field. His work ethic and willingness to adjust certainly paved the way for his big league debut, and it’s that same attitude and team-oriented mindset that made him feel instantly a part of the big league roster. And when he speaks of his time in the majors this year, it’s clear he’s appreciative and humble:
“Whatever I can gain from it is so I can help the team win every day, day in and day out, however I can, being ready to go in on a double switch, being able to pinch hit, just being prepared the best I can so that when my number’s called.”
This is the character and professional approach the front office desires. Talent will always have precedence, but it’s the person that comes with that talent the Cubs covet. It’s what makes this clubhouse culture unique and tight-knit. Fans looking in from the outside don’t have to pretend this team loves each other; it’s an obvious, infectious reality that’s impossible to ignore.
Kris Bryant’s activation Wednesday signaled the expected return to Iowa for Bote. It’s the nature of the beast, a role player trying to find his way among a crowded and star-studded roster.
It’s safe to say this doesn’t faze Bote, however. He clearly relishes the opportunity to contribute any way he can for this team, and in his brief time in Chicago he’s made himself invaluable. It won’t be long before he’s back.
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