No one really knew what to expect with this new, weird, simultaneously robust-and-also-limited undrafted signing period. It opened up yesterday, and, at least as far as the Cubs go, they clearly had a whole lot of guys pre-targeted for signing (as hoped/expected).
Michael got into a bunch of the initial signings here, and we’ll have more to discuss today. From there, it’s possible more will continue to roll in as the recruiting process goes on, but again, we’re all doing a lot of guessing. I wouldn’t expect the Cubs to ultimately sign more than 10-15 total at the max, given the lack of a minor league season and the shrinking minor leagues next year, but who knows.
One new signing that came in later last night and we didn’t have a chance to discuss yet is one of the most intriguing of the group so far: it’s Duke two-way player, Matt Mervis.
So pumped for @mmervis12 to start his professional career with the @Cubs. Has contributed to this @DukeBASE program in so many ways, but I am most proud of his leadership as a 2020 captain. #bluecollar https://t.co/punOpqVVpW
— Chris Pollard (@coachchris14) June 15, 2020
A reasonably successful righty reliever – more on that in a moment – Mervis seemed to be breaking out with the bat before things shut down. Consider his offensive trajectory through college and in summer ball – including a standout performance in the Cape Cod League, where the Cubs love to see guys hit well with wood bats:
That is a CLASSIC senior you aggressively try to target in the draft – drafted out of high school but didn’t sign, decent summer league performance before his junior year, decent but not-quite-draft-level performance in the ACC as a junior, explosive performance in the Cape, and then a huge year as a senior (well, if it had been more than 16 games … ).
Mervis, on paper, looks to me like a guy the Cubs might have drafted as a senior sign in the 7th/8th/9th round range, or perhaps risked trying to get him around the 20th, and that’s before you even consider that he can also pitch! Also, check out all the love he gets at Duke (feature image from there, too). Clearly, the makeup is there.
He was also getting plenty of positive attention before his senior season:
The #Cubs signed @DukeBASE two-way star Matt Mervis, a first baseman and RHP. He was a standout in the Cape League last year; his power potential is pretty intriguing and he kept getting better and better over the last 2 years. Wrote this about him in the fall: pic.twitter.com/Wq1aS6N3NT
— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) June 15, 2020
It’s entirely possible the Cubs have targeted Mervis more as a pitcher than as a hitter – he’s a big, strong dude, and you never know how scouts are projecting a guy – but I tend to think the progression he’s shown at the plate is going to make them not want to take the bat out of his hands. So, then, the question is going to be about how much pitching he does. The arm isn’t quite there yet, and he’s been a relatively limited reliever in his college career – solid, not spectacular, results, and only 59.0 innings total through four years at Duke. You’d think he would need a lot of time to focus on the pitching side of things to bring that part of his game along.
Maybe there’s a way to keep him in that usable range as a reliever, while primarily focusing on his development as a bat? Since Mervis is mostly a first baseman, you’d obviously need the bat to REALLY continue to explode for him to preserve long-term value, unless he can also chip in at third base (where he played in high school) and maybe in a corner outfield spot.
I can’t wait to find out what the focus is going to be for Mervis, as the Cubs haven’t really tried to develop a true two-way player. In an era where you’re going to be limited to 13 pitchers on the big league roster no matter what, and where you’ll be limited by rule when you can deploy position player on the mound, having a true two-way player reach the big league level could be a really nice boost to the roster.