23 for ’23: What is the Cubs’ plan for Matt Mervis?
Between position battles, roster additions and new rules, there are plenty of questions surrounding the 2023 Cubs. We attempt to provide answers for 23 of the most intriguing questions heading into the season.
In a matter of months last summer, Matt Mervis transformed from an unknown and undrafted minor leaguer to a new obsession for Cubs fans as the next “can’t-miss” prospect.
Mervis Mania picked up steam as the left-handed hitting slugger mashed his way through the Cubs system. He began 2022 at Advanced Class-A South Bend and ended at Triple-A Iowa with a detour at Double-A Tennessee in between.
The Cubs continued to throw challenges his way, sending Mervis to the Arizona Fall League to cap off the year.
Every step of the way, the first baseman posted impressive offensive numbers.
He hit .309 with a .379 on-base percentage and .606 slugging percentage (.984 OPS) in the minors with 36 homers, 40 doubles and 119 RBI. He added another 6 homers and 12 RBI in 17 AFL games.
That’s a pretty big leap in production from his first taste of pro ball in 2021 (.209 AVG, .677 OPS, 9 HR with Class-A Myrtle Beach). The Cubs signed Mervis as an undrafted free agent following the 5-round Draft in 2020.
Between his breakout season and finishing the year with a successful run in Iowa, many fans assumed the next step for Mervis would be Chicago — possibly even as early as Opening Day. After all, the Cubs began the offseason with a hole at both first base and designated hitter.
However, they’ve since filled the gap by signing veterans Eric Hosmer and Trey Mancini and the path to playing time for Mervis has become murky. It’s more likely the Cubs send the 24-year-old back to Triple-A for everyday at-bats to begin the year.
Mervis has received a lot of playing time in Spring Training, hitting .118 with 5 walks in 8 Cactus League games. But he has since departed to join Team Israel for the World Baseball Classic and could be gone for several weeks.
The Cubs certainly understand the incredible opportunity for Mervis with the WBC but it also limits his first experience in big-league camp to showcase what he can do firsthand to David Ross and the rest of the coaching staff.
“I just like to see guys and where they’re at,” Ross said. “It’s nice to get a look at them but I won’t get to see some of their performances. You like to watch those things.”
While that may play a role in making the Opening Day roster this spring, the international experience will serve Mervis well long-term. Marcus Stroman compared WBC play to the intensity and pressure of MLB playoffs.
“For Matt and Team Israel, it’s an opportunity for him to compete at a much larger scale,” GM Carter Hawkins said on Cubs 360 early in spring. “To get that opportunity to get significant at-bats is really, really priceless for him.”
Though Mervis’ time in Cubs camp has been somewhat limited, he still had an opportunity to make an impression.
“The things that have stood out to me about Matty is it’s a very dry personality and he’s a worker and thinks things through,” Ross said. “He’s very hard on himself and competes at a high level but if you watch him, even the at-bats you feel like aren’t successful at-bats, he’s in the at-bats, he’s able to take his walks, controlling the strike zone.
“If you watch his batting practice, the way he hits the ball, how it comes off the bat … it stood out to me just how hard he hits the baseball. You better be positioned in the right place – even on a ground ball – because it’s coming in hot when you’re on the infield.”
Mancini is already playing more right field in the wake of the Seiya Suzuki injury and Hosmer is only signed to a 1-year deal so there’s certainly a chance Mervis forces the issue with continued production and the Cubs have no choice but to open up a spot in the lineup for him sooner rather than later.
That would be the ideal outcome for the organization as they look to build out the next core of position players.
23 for ’23 series
What will the Cubs’ new era at catcher look like?
What is the Cubs’ plan at third base?
Who steps up in the wake of the Seiya Suzuki injury?
What role will Christopher Morel have on the 2023 Cubs?
Who will win the Cubs’ 5th starter spot?
Where does Nick Madrigal fit on the roster?
Who will close for the Cubs?
What kind of impact will Dansby Swanson have in his first season in Chicago?