Without question, Chicago Cubs prospect Matt Mervis has been one of the best stories and biggest breakouts on the farm this year.
The 24-year-old first baseman was an undrafted signee for the Cubs in 2020 out of Duke, whose first professional year in 2021 was acceptable, if not notable. But you have to remember that, (1) the offseason before 2021 was still interrupted by the pandemic, so post-2021 was actually his first full offseason working intimately with Cubs coaches, and (2) Mervis was a two-way player in college who only just started to focus full-time on hitting with the Cubs. So you might reasonable expect a mixed year in 2021, and then hope for a breakout in 2022.
And boy did that breakout come in spades. Mervis opened the season at High-A in South Bend, and hit at such a ridiculous clip (.350/.389/.650/182 wRC+) that he was barely there a month. The hitting has continued at Double-A (.300 .370 .596/148 wRC+ (but with an IMPROVED strikeout rate and an almost identical ISO)). His 80 first half RBI lead literally all of baseball.
So now, Mervis will reportedly get a chance to keep on showing out at his THIRD level this year:
If true – and I don’t have a reason to doubt Leighton, who covers the minor leagues – that is just awesome stuff, both for Matt Mervis and for the Cubs’ scouting and player development. Mervis is clearly emerging as a legitimate first base option for the big league club in the years ahead, and now he’ll get a head start on putting those finishing touches on his approach against advanced competition with more robust scouting reports. I especially like that he’s getting this exposure – two months of it! – before the offseason. I just like guys, and the Cubs, to get that information in advance of optimizing an offseason development plan.
Longer-term, I still don’t think we’d see Mervis get a call-up to the big league team this year because of the 40-man situation. He is not Rule 5 eligible until after next season, which means calling him up this year gobbles up a 40-man spot for an entire offseason when you otherwise wouldn’t have to. Maybe if he just obliterates Triple-A to such an extent that the Cubs are thinking he’s potentially a day one starter at first base next year, and they want him to see some big league pitching before the season ends, then *MAYBE* he could be called up in September. I think that’s highly unlikely, though.
Instead, I’m just super excited about a huge bat prospect who has flown up the org (and the prospect rankings) in a single year. Sure, he’s a bat-only guy who won’t offer you much in the way of versatility, but I love that the Cubs have a possible impact bat coming to Triple-A at a position that isn’t already locked down in the years ahead.
With Jared Young increasingly playing other positions, and with Frank Schwindel and Alfonso Rivas back with the big league team, the only time-share guy at first base would be Nelson Maldonado, who also does a lot of DH’ing. There’s not really any obstruction there, realistically, for Mervis to start as often as the Cubs like.
As for Double-A Tennessee, most of the first base starts will continue to go to Bryce Ball, I expect, but you do wonder if this will open up occasional starts there for the coming glut of big-time outfield bats.