It has been easy to overlook David Bote throughout his career. An 18th round pick out of a community college in Kansas, he entered the Cubs system in 2012 as a utility infielder and failed to hit above .235 his first three seasons. He certainly didn't light the world on fire during his fourth season spent entirely at South Bend either (.251/.328/.384) but it at least represented a step up, and earned him his first everyday gig as a professional.
My first extended and in-person look came the year before when Bote spent a partial season in Kane County (.210/.323/.290). His results were ugly, but I came away impressed with his bat speed. He also flashed solid plate discipline and decent athleticism. I also remember telling John that I liked his swing, however, I admitted there was something I wasn't picking up on because most of his at bats ended with him grounding out to either the SS or 2B. They were often hard ground balls, and some did sneak through, but something was preventing him from lifting the ball. I just couldn't put my finger on it.
And I never did. To this day I'm still not sure the exact alterations David Bote made, and I no longer have access to video from his early years, but whatever those changes were seem to have occurred during the 2016 season. To begin the year Bote was essentially being treated as an org player. He started off in High-A Myrtle Beach before heading to the DL in in April. When he returned to action it was not with the Pelicans however, instead Bote found himself filling in at AAA, and then AA when injuries struck at those levels before returning to Myrtle Beach in June. That is not the way organization's typically handle prospects they have high hopes for.
The funny thing is, despite the detours, Bote began to hit. After batting a combined .277 during his upper levels stints, he settled into an everyday role with Myrtle Beach upon his return in late June and everything began to click. Bote earned an everyday role for just the second time in his career by slashing a highly unexpected .337/.410/.518 for the Pelicans.
He credits the organization's mental skills coordinators for helping him throughout 2016, and mentions that in second half of the season he finally grew comfortable with staying in the moment, concentrating on the importance of the current at bat. In short, he learned what he could control on a daily basis and kept his focus on just those things.
Last season, Bote took yet another step forward with the bat. With AA Tennessee he doubled his career high in home runs (14) while hitting .272. He went on to hit .333/.395/.536 with 4 HRs and 14 RBI in 19 games during the Arizona Fall League. The strides Bote made throughout the year prompted the Cubs to add him to the 40-man roster in the offseason in order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. It also meant Bote would attend his first big league camp this spring.
To say he has made the most of the opportunity would be an understatement. Taking advantage of short absences from Ben Zobrist, Kris Bryant, and now Javier Baez, Bote has received more playing time than anticipated when camp opened. And his play has not gone unnoticed. He's drawn praise from Joe Maddon, who has already chimed in with walk up music recommendations for the young infielder.
The power surge in 2017 is not a fluke either. Bote has always hit the ball hard but he is still learning to translate that power into game situations. He arrived in Mesa a month earlier than normal in order to work with hitting coaches Chili Davis and Andy Haines to help further bring that aspect of his game to the forefront. While he doesn't possess the same raw strength as some of the Cubs current mashers, 20-25 homer seasons are not out of the question moving forward.
The power surge in 2017 was no fluke and there is even more that Bote can tap into. His bat speed is legit. Not only can he hit no doubters to his pull side but remember how I mentioned he can drive the ball to the opposite field? pic.twitter.com/qdIp7M4Xqj
— Michael Ernst (@mj_ernst) March 11, 2018
For more of a taste of what Bote can bring to the club in the near future, take a look at his day at the plate during Friday's Cactus League action. He delivered an RBI single through the hole on the right side in his first at bat. This is an example of how Bote contributed early in his career, a hard ground ball:
Base knock for David Bote. #Cubs 2012 18th-round #MLBDraft pick coming off a strong Fall League campaign and making his debut on the @Cubs' Top 30 list: https://t.co/KGD2Tbxcts pic.twitter.com/gCCQeFTaIA
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 9, 2018
Then he showed off that emerging power I spoke of in his next at bat. When he gets a hanging breaker, thigh-high on the inner half... he can now annihilate it:
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 9, 2018
Once the season opens the Cubs will likely carry just three extra position players in Iowa from the 40-man roster. They'll create room for Chris Gimenez meaning catcher Victor Caratini and corner outfielder Mark Zagunis will return to Iowa to serve as the potential first call ups depending on the situation. Bote stands as the lone infielder. His versatility as a potential corner outfielder means that with a strong start he could even supplant Zagunis as the first recall if a need arises in the outfield as well. Bote's one limiting factor is his inability to play shortstop. So an injury to either Addison Russell or Javier Baez could prompt the club to add either Mike Freeman or Chesny Young to the 40-man so that one could be summoned to Chicago.