Cubs Prospect Notes: Davis Still Out, Lengthy Mervis Evaluation, Canario Rakes, Rodriguez Funky, More

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Cubs Prospect Notes: Davis Still Out, Lengthy Mervis Evaluation, Canario Rakes, Rodriguez Funky, More

Chicago Cubs

I hope that the interest level in the Chicago Cubs’ farm system remains high enough through the offseason that we keep getting a steady stream of updates and bits to share and discuss.

Among them for today …

  • At the top I’ll note the injury-related concern (assuming it is injury-related) that Brennen Davis, who’d previously been expected to return to AFL action this weekend did not, in fact, return to action. I have seen Spriggs’ comment from out in Arizona that Davis may be away from the team right now with a TBD on a return, but until we get a firm update on what actually happened, I’m gonna just keep holding out hope that it’s relatively minor and he can return before the end of the AFL season in November. You just want him to get those missed reps, and obviously he’d started out very strong.

So I’ve gotten a lot of questions about Cubs first baseman Matt Mervis, especially after he homered twice in a game last week. I saw all three of his homers during the week while I was there, and all three came on hanging breaking balls from right-handers, pitches he’s not likely to ever see in the majors. Mervis was undrafted twice out of Duke, graduating in 2020 and signing as a free agent with the Cubs, who started him in High A this year as a 24-year-old. He hit well enough there to move up to Double A, and again there to move up to Triple A, hitting .297/.383/.593 with just a 12 percent strikeout rate. He’s very strong, but does not have great bat speed, and even in the pitching-light AFL his difficulty with velocity middle-in or just in showed up very quickly; when pitchers did come inside, even with just average fastballs, he couldn’t do anything beyond popping them up. I could see a role for him as a platoon 1B/DH, like Daniel Vogelbach, but not beyond that.

  • I think some caution with Mervis has always been warranted, because we’re talking about a relatively small sample of upper-level success from an older prospect. I also know that, at least as of midseason, there were still scouting questions – including from some within the Cubs organization – about whether Mervis would actually be able to hit more advanced pitching. It seems like at least some of those questions were answered, though MLB is not Triple-A. So there is still more to prove.
  • All that said, I’d heard the Cubs’ internal metrics showed Mervis’s contact quality was outstanding, and obviously he wasn’t striking out, either. That’s an eye-popping combination when you see it, even from a 24-year-old at Triple-A. The questions on the bat speed or ability to handle velocity are new to me, but I guess we’ll find out soon enough in 2023. The note on Mervis being “undrafted twice” is accurate, though potentially misleading: Mervis was undrafted in 2019 because he’d primarily been a pitcher his freshman and sophomore seasons, and then was not showing out as a bat yet in that junior season; in 2020, it’s clear he WOULD have been drafted, but the draft went only five rounds. The Cubs pounced on him instantly when the free agent period opened up, so it’s fair to guess they might well have taken him in the 6th round – doesn’t have quite the same feel as a guy who was “undrafted twice.”
  • As for the offensive comp to Dan Vogelbach, that wouldn’t be the worst outcome, right, since we know the glove would actually be playable at first base? Vogelbach is a career .218/.343/.411/110 wRC+ hitter, and has hit righties at .238/.364/.458/127 wRC+. Not exactly what you’d want at first base, but again, the big difference is that Vogelbach is a true DH-only guy. Matt Mervis can play first base. (Also, I reallllly don’t see the comp. Vogelbach was a never-swing-at-anything type of disciplined guy, which has always really hampered his power production. Mervis is much more aggressive, and his ISOs this year blow away anything Vogelbach ever did in the minors.)
  • Alexander Canario had a BIG game down in the DR last night, homering and tripling:
  • We’ll see if it continues throughout the Dominican Winter League season, but I’m trying to figure out what the Cubs would do if Canario destroys that league – on the heels of his explosion in 2022, including a breakout at Triple-A after some time to adjust – and then comes to Spring Training looking like a big leaguer. You’re not going to supplant either of Ian Happ or Seiya Suzuki, if healthy, but Canario CAN play center field, even if he projects to some as more of a plus-glove corner outfielder. I suppose it would depend on what happens at the position in the offseason (we know the Cubs have needs there).
  • I think I would not want to see Canario going the Nelson Velazquez route of playing only sparingly while getting big league exposure. I say that because Canario, at both Double-A and Triple-A, went through that two-week adjustment period – deep struggles – and then blew up after being given enough time and regular starts to figure it out. Would that happen at the big league level if he were playing only every third day? Maybe you would rather he start the year back at Triple-A and come up only when something happens that necessitates him getting a long run as an everyday starter? Can you even plan for something like that?
  • We talked about new pitching prospect Wilber Rodriguez last time around, and Bryan shares a clip, demonstrating why he is leaping on to folks’ radars, despite being a 22-year-old who only just signed earlier this year:
  • That is just a funky delivery that is going to make it impossible for younger hitters to do anything. With mid-90s velocity, it’s possible even more experienced hitters would struggle out of the gate. Arizona Phil said that Rodriguez could be a very quick mover next year, and now I can see why. If he has any command whatsoever out of a delivery like that, he’s going to be a problem. What a scouting find.
  • Hey, don’t forget that the Cubs won a championship this year:
  • And if you missed the likely-very-good class the Cubs are going to be bringing in in January:

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.