Signs of Progress for Matt Mervis? Either Way, Patience Remains Warranted
Partially obscured by the BLINDING SUN that has been Christopher Morel’s start to the season, we haven’t talked much about Matt Mervis’s initial rough adjustment to MLB pitching.
For as outstanding as Mervis was last year and into this year, throughout the minors and especially at Triple-A (where his peripherals just kept getting better and better), there were questions about whether it would all translate in the big leagues. Not specific concerns necessarily, but more in the vein of true questions. Maybe a situation where, instead of being a guy who just comes up and keeps raking, he would instead be a guy who has to see how big league pitchers would attack him, struggle, and then adjust. I never did hear the particulars from anyone inside or outside the organization; just that there were more questions than you might expect about a guy with the kinds of numbers he was putting up.
I don’t know that I would say we have definitively seen anything exposed – anything specific for him to work on outside of continuing to recognize big league pitches – but Mervis did not come out of the gate with impressive results, hitting just .208/.255/.292/50 wRC+ through his first 51 plate appearances. His strikeout rate is 35.3%, and, maybe most concerningly, he’s got a 50% groundball rate and only so-so contact quality.
It’s all a situation to continue monitoring. The Cubs are doing the right thing by continuing to give him regular playing time, regardless of the match-ups, because both they and he need to know how the first, say, 100 plate appearances are going to go. You would want to see improvements in that time. Adjustments. Signs that, just as he’d eventually succeeded at every previous level, he can do it again against the highest-level competition.
Mervis spoke on MLB Network Radio today about his first two+ weeks in the big leagues, and it kinda put his story back on my mind:
The always-excellent Brad on Twitter was also looking at Mervis today, noticing that the quality of contact has been improving, which we’ve KIND of seen anecdotally:
Six games is, of course, not much of a sample; but then again, neither are the first seven games. We’re trying to evaluate based on very, very granular data. So you really can’t take it too far.
All you could say is that, of late, it seems like maybe Mervis’s contact quality has been a bit stronger and he’s been striking out less. I’ll take any positive potential signs of adjustment we can get, and with his talent, it’s not as if a massive breakout and the start of a prolonged hot streak is out of the question as soon as tomorrow. That’s what I mean when I say that the Cubs are doing the right thing by, for now, completely sticking with him and letting him play every day. Let’s get a much larger sample before deciding on anything we think we’re seeing in the trends.