Cubs Prospect Notes: Jensen's Upside, Another Mixed Mervis Report, New Top 30 List, More

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Cubs Prospect Notes: Jensen’s Upside, Another Mixed Mervis Report, New Top 30 List, More

Chicago Cubs

Some Chicago Cubs prospect notes for your Tuesday afternoon …

  • I wouldn’t characterize it as a shock – or even a surprise – that righty Ryan Jensen was added to the 40-man roster last week to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, but he was the only guy added who wasn’t previously considered a lock (like Brennen Davis, Kevin Alcántara, and Ben Brown). That will naturally make folks a little more curious about what the Cubs have planned for Jensen in 2023, and thus I very much appreciate the latest from Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney:
  • Read it if you the whole picture on Jensen’s evolution, and why – behind the scenes – it had become a no-brainer that he would be added to the 40-man roster. The short version is that the Cubs knew by the Spring that Jensen’s delivery needed significant work, but the actual process of getting there is complex, multi-layered, and requires total buy-in from the player. One of the biggest steps was the midseason detour on the Development List back in Arizona, out of which we saw Jensen return to Tennessee with a very noticeably reduced arm stroke, and the stuff still looking nasty. By the end of the year, the Cubs were really liking where Jensen was.
  • Jensen, who was the Cubs’ first round pick in 2019 and is about to turn 25, will keep starting on into 2023 (one team official in the article says he graded Jensen at SIX above-average pitches). It’s easy to look at the control issues and the near-100 mph and assume there’s a relief future there, but no reason to make that move just yet. I’d call it TBD whether he returns to Double-A Tennessee to open the season, or gets the bump to Triple-A Iowa. He might be a guy whom the Cubs need to see in the Spring to make a sure decision, given all that he’s been working on.

Having gone undrafted in 2020, Mervis makes for an appealing underdog story, although that label is a bit misleading. The draft lasted only five rounds that year, and he would have been a lock to go in the top 10 rounds as a senior out of Duke in a normal year. But, asterisk or not, the guy has hit. The lefty swinger entered the fall league having raked from High A all the way to Triple A, and batted .262/.324/.590 with a league-leading six home runs.

Turning 25 in April, he was also one of the oldest players in a league that skewed a bit younger this year, leaving scouts to suss out how much of his performance was projectable skill and how much was him beating up on younger pitchers in a pitching-poor league. “Feels like a guy who is going to be successful in the upper minors and then have a hard time adjusting to big-league pitching,” one scout said. The raw power is legit, earning a 65 grade from one evaluator, but his swing is a bit long and leaves him susceptible to left-on-left matchups.

There’s little mystery about his defense at first, though, which looked rough at times this fall. But the designated hitter spot and his ability to park balls in the seats may forgive some of that. Looking for a comparison, one scout suggested Daniel Vogelbach-type value. Another shot a little higher. “I’m a believer,” that scout said. “A Rowdy Tellez type who hits enough mistakes out.”

  • I know that it’s a brief look in a specialized league, and it comes after a season where Mervis did EVERYTHING you could possibly hope for from a production standpoint. But you can’t just ignore the scouting looks because you don’t like what they say. Maybe there are reasons to be concerned about his ability against big-league-caliber pitching, and maybe we’ll see that in time (at which point you just hope he adjusts and keeps developing). I think the question on his defense there is a *BIT* strong, since there is no universe in which he’s close to being a DH-only type.

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.)

  • The Northside Bound crew each offered their top 30 prospect lists over the past week, and then the combined list just dropped:
  • Obviously the serious injuries to Alexander Canario, and the lost season/setback for Brennen Davis, have really put a sour note on things. But it’s good to see a list like that and be reminded that, at a minimum, the Cubs have ridiculous quality depth right now. You have a guy like Jordan Wicks showing up at 8, Cristian Hernández at 9, James Triantos at 14, D.J. Herz at 16, Caleb Kilian at 20 … and all of that is totally justifiable. I tend to think the story of last offseason for the system is still the story this offseason (but probably even more pronounced): the near-big-league-ready, true-impact types are few and far between. But the quality depth is as strong as I can remember seeing.
  • New Cubs utility prospect Miles Mastrobuoni got a mention from Eric Longenhagen in his latest FanGraphs chat: “Love Mastro as a do-it-all bench piece. Low impact, but belongs in the bigs.” Hey, I’ll take it.

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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.