Cubs Prospect Notes: Ed Howard’s Recovery, Mervis Breakout, Davis and Horn in the AFL, More

There was actually very little prospect-related talk during Jed Hoyer’s state of the union today, even though the Cubs president spoke for an hour. And it’s not like the questions were bad – there’s just a lot to get into on the state of the big league team, which, hey, it’s nice when that’s the focus at these things!

That said, there were a couple prospecting bits, and there is a little more to discuss, too …

  • Hoyer said that Ed Howard is moving around well, and “looks good.” And – if I heard him correctly – the hope is for Howard to work to build up toward Spring Training, with a goal of then having a normal Spring Training. That’d be about as good of an outcome as you could’ve hoped for given how worrisome the injury was.
  • Howard, the Cubs’ 2020 first round pick, had been given a very challenging assignment at High-A South Bend to open the season, and just as it looked like he was doing the adjusting thing, he suffered a fluke injury at first base while running out a ground ball. The resulting hip surgery has had him out since mid-May, and no one can reasonably have any expectations for what he will be upon a return (his athleticism at shortstop is one of his most valuable traits, and it’s hard to know where that will stand). Here’s hoping things look good come March and April.
  • Hoyer’s comments on Matt Mervis were as praise-filled as it can get. Noting that Mervis was the Cubs’ top undrafted free agent target after that shortened 2020 draft – he said the Cubs reached out to him with an extensive plan for his development “four seconds” after the signing window opened – Hoyer said that Mervis is having one of the best minor league seasons he can remember. Hoyer pointed to the struggles in 2021, and then the breakout this year, with seeming improvement as the year went on and as the levels got more challenging. Hoyer described it as the most impressive minor league season he’s ever experienced among players where you weren’t expect anything like that.
  • That’s a good way of putting it, and highlight how hard it’s been to “buy” fully what Mervis was doing. It was just so unexpected for him to have THIS LEVEL of performance – arguably the biggest disconnect Hoyer has ever seen – that it can take a while, for me at least, to say yes, this guy is clearly a big-time prospect. But what keeps selling me is the idea that, as Mervis rose levels, his power stayed where it was (or improved) and his strikeout rate PLUMMETED. He was at 24.1% at High-A South Bend in the first part of the year, but then all the way down to 14.6% at Triple-A Iowa over his final 57 games. To do that with the power he was showing, again, at the highest level (and it was his first season of that length) … you really can’t say loudly enough how good it was. Results, even of that caliber, don’t always translate in the big leagues, but you can’t realistically do 2022 better than Mervis did.
  • Oh, also? I have probably been remiss in not noting how absurd Mervis’s end of the season was. Over the final month+, he hit .333/.437/.702/192 wRC+ with a 12.6% BB rate, 14.8% K rate, .368 ISO, and .317 BABIP. Those numbers are … perfect?
  • On Brennen Davis, Hoyer conceded that he missed a lot of reps this year, and that’s just a reality. But he’s happy that Davis came back from the back injury/surgery, and is getting more time in the AFL. Like Davis, himself, has said, Hoyer explained that Davis is probably not as strong as he would normally be right now because of the surgery and rehab, but that strength should be back come the spring.
  • Speaking of Davis in the AFL, where he’s been playing well in the early going – this was hopefully nothing at all beyond the league sometimes being weird with player usage and early lineup changes. Davis had a long at bat in the second inning, played in the field, and then came out of the game the next inning:
  • Bailey Horn pitched in today’s game, also, and Todd jinxed it by posting this before Horn went out for a third inning:
  • Just kidding, Todd. Horn gave up a solo homer in that third inning of work, but it was still a good day overall. That’s a hard league to pitch in, and Horn has carried over his end-of-season success. There’s a decent chance he heads back to Tennessee to open the 2023 season just by virtue of crowding, but even so, he’s going to be on the big league radar if he shows he’s ready to contribute. He’s one of “those” guys: clearly big-league-caliber stuff, needs consistency with the control.
  • EDIT: Wait a minute, now I’m the one who jumped the gun. Horn just came out for a fourth inning of work. That’s kinda wild. Cubs experimenting with just how long he can hold his stuff? He was a starting pitcher in the White Sox system and for a bit last year, but the Cubs converted him to full-time relief this season.
  • Hoyer didn’t go too deep on the latest Miguel Amaya injury – a Lisfranc fracture that required surgery – and I will not read too deeply, therefore, into anything he did or didn’t say. Instead, I’ll keep it surface and say it did not seem like Hoyer was brushing this one off as a minor injury, but neither was he giving that “so Amaya is a total question mark now” vibe. Hoyer still believes in Amaya as a prospect (he’s only 23), but a whole lot of reps have been missed.
  • The South Bend Cubs have their new Marvel-created logo, and it’s got a Hulk vibe going:
  • 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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