Cubs Prospect Notes: Mervis So Hot, Sanders Promoted, Little’s Stuff, Hernández Homer, More

Up front, I’ll mention the South Bend Cubs winning their seventh straight with a comeback, walk-off win. It was awesome.

But in the game, shortstop Ed Howard suffered an apparent left leg injury – a bad one, from his reaction – and we’re just waiting for word on that. If it’s relatively minor, we probably won’t hear much of anything. But if it’s significant, as it looked in the moment, we will probably hear within a week or so what happened. I just feel sick for the guy, because we all know how much he struggled at the plate last year in an aggressive full-season assignment, and then the Cubs challenged him again by promoting him to South Bend. There, he struggled initially, but the last three weeks he’s REALLY been hitting. It was exactly the kind of progress you wanted to see for a 20-year-old plus-glove shortstop. Now, that’s all thrown up into the air, for the short and long-term.

UPDATE before I could publish – it is his hip:

Here’s hoping it isn’t the kind of hip injury that is serious/requires surgery, but I guess we’ll see. Such a bummer.

Elsewhere on the farm …

⇒ Oh, the walk-off in that game came courtesy of first base prospect Matt Mervis, his second of the game, and which pushed his line at South Bend to .313/.363/.627 (174 wRC+). Mervis has limited pro experience because of the pandemic, but he’s already 24, and the Cubs may want to challenge him at Double-A sometime later this year. The trick there is the bat/1B/DH types ahead of him that you also want to give challenging looks, like Bryce Ball, Nelson Maldonado, and Jared Young. And imagine if Frank Schwindel comes back down to Iowa with a directive to get a lot of plate appearances. It can be managed, of course, but it’s getting a little bunched up. Good problem to have after years and years and years of never seeming to have any of these upper-level, bat-only types. Call it the Vogelbach Curse.

⇒ We covered most of the minor league promotions yesterday, but there was one more big one that broke later:

⇒ Cam Sanders, 25, has been a serious developmental breakout the last couple years, with his stuff and velocity just exploding. There’s some wildness risk there, and questions about the efficiency necessary to start deep into games, but you can’t argue with how dominant he can look at times. I’m really excited to see him get the Triple-A challenge, especially as another guy who is Rule 5 eligible after this season (the Cubs have so many … ). The Cubs no doubt want to know if they can project him to contribute big league innings in 2023, either as an up-and-down starter, or in a relief role to break him into facing Major League batters.

⇒ Speaking of the Rule 5 impact on the minor leagues, it also includes the guys already on the 40-man that the Cubs really need to keep evaluating:

⇒ This Luke Little pitch is absolutely wonderful:

⇒ Through 13.2 innings at Low-A, Little has a funky distribution of stats, from a 4.61 ERA to a 2.82 FIP to a 13.8% BB rate to a 35.4% K rate. It tells me that Little has outstanding stuff and velo (we kinda knew that about the 2020 4th rounder who was thought of as pretty raw), but that he’s still working on a consistent delivery. As you can see, it’s unique. I doubt many will project him long-term as a starter, but no reason to take him out of that role for now.

⇒ There was talk of a big Cristian Hernández homer in an extended Spring Training game earlier this week, and he posted the video on Instagram so that we could all enjoy it:

⇒ I love that reaction. That’s when you power through one and immediately know it’s going 400+. That one was projected by eyewitnesses to be in the 430 range. You are reminded that Hernández is only 18 and has absolutely not filled out yet. Just stay the course, and he’s going to be special.

⇒ He’s not necessarily a “prospect” at this point, having had a few shots at the big league level, but Robel Garcia still has pretty limited experience in the upper levels of the minors, relative to the average 29-year-old at Triple-A. It’s not clear if he’ll ever get another significant shot to stick in the big leagues, but he keeps showing off that huge power at Iowa, homering twice yesterday:

⇒ Garcia is currently hitting a whopping .279/.412/.588 (163 wRC+, 18.8% BB rate), but the old bugaboo is still there in the form of a 36.5% K rate.

⇒ Narciso Crook was a priority minor league signing for the Cubs before the lockout, but the 26-year-old outfielder, who had always hit in the upper minors, has not done so at Iowa (.104/.259/.167, 30 wRC+, 39.7% K rate). Playing time is going to be increasingly hard to come by as promotions continue. You still really want to root for him, though:

⇒ Speaking of the Iowa outfield, Brennen Davis (back soreness) did not return to the lineup yesterday, so he’s now missed a full week.

written by

Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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