Cubs News: It’s time to pull the trigger on Morel and Mervis
Margaret Kispert - USA Today Sports

Cubs News: It’s time to pull the trigger on Morel and Mervis

by - Staff Writer -

The Cubs have had a solid start to the 2023 season thus far. David Ross and the Cubs currently sit at 14-13 as April ends and May begins — above .500 by a game, even after a three-game sweep by the hands of the pesky Miami Marlins.

Storylines — and positive ones — have been rampant for the Cubs to open the season. Nico Hoerner has been the club's leadoff hitter and has appeared in every game for the Cubs thus far — in the 27 games, he has reached base safely in 26 of them. Hoerner also leads the Cubs with a .328 average and ten steals.

Ian Happ had a strong April. He is hitting nearly .300 and getting on base more than 40% of his at-bats — and his April was certainly highlighted by recicveig a contract extension from Chicago.

Dansby Swanson, the Cubs' big-ticket acquisition this winter, has been a Godsend for the Cubs as well — not only with excellent defense in the middle of the diamond but also with a team-high on-base percentage highlighted by 28 hits and 21 walks. His leadership has been a welcome addition to this roster.

Yan Gomes hit eight home runs in 86 games last season, and he already has hit five in just 18 games this season. He has also been a big reason the Cubs have one of the strongest pitching rotations in the National League to open the season.

Speaking of power, Patrick Wisdom has a team-high ten home runs — leaving him on pace with the Dodgers' Max Muncy for most in the MLB, and not far behind him is Cody Bellinger, who enjoyed a resurgent April which included seven home runs and a slugging percentage over .60

On the mound, the Cubs have displayed a strong 1-2 punch of Marcus Stroman and Justin Steele. Stroman leads the Cubs with 33 strikeouts in his five starts. Steele has a 1.49 ERA which is near the best in the NL among starting pitchers, and he boasts a perfect 4-0 record.

But the best game of the season wasn't pitched by either of the Cubs' aces — it was Drew Smyly who took a perfect game into the eighth inning last week; he has an ERA of 3.21 on the season.

Out of the pen, Adbert Alzolay and Keegan Thompson have excelled in their roles, both with ERAs below 3 in more than 14 innings pitched.

The fact of the matter is the Cubs have exceeded expectations early. The Cubs have grabbed series wins over the Rangers, Mariners, Dodgers, and Padres thus far.

However, of their 13 losses, the Cubs have lost seven by one or two runs, and nine of the 13 have been in games where they have scored three or fewer runs. The fact is, the Cubs need a bit of a boost in the lineup.

Seiya Suzuki's return from injury in mid-April looked to be that boost, as he reached base safely in his first nine games. But since he is just 4-25 in the last six games, the Cubs' recent struggles have coincided with his slump and Swanson and Happ's inability to keep up with their early season numbers.

Some of the Cubs' roster moves from the offseason have worked to perfection, like Swanson and Bellinger thus far. However, Eric Hosmer, Tucker Barnhart, Luis Torrens, Edwin Rios, Nick Madrigal, and even Trey Mancini have sometimes been easy outs. The frustration for Cubs fans is that their triple-a team — filled with prospects that many believe could help the Major League team, is destroying teams. The I-Cubs have scored more than ten runs ten times in their first 24 games of the season.

Christopher Morel is slashing video game esq numbers of .363/.463/.835 with a league-leading 11 home runs and 28 RBI to start the year. Morel was expected by many to be a staple around the diamond for the Cubs this season — but the Cubs opted to carry a third catcher in Luis Torrens and Edwin Rios to play third base and some outfield.

Nelson Velazquez was expected to be the Cubs' fourth outfielder to start the year too. Still, instead, they waited until he hit four homers and slugged .618 before bringing them up to the majors — where he has excelled, hitting .350 in eight games, including a go-ahead grand slam in the Cubs' epic comeback against Seattle.

The combination of Miles Mastrobouni, Luis Torrens, and Edwin Rios has hit .189 (11-58) so far, while these Cubs are destroying the ball in the minors.

Matt Mervis, who won the Cubs' award for best minor league player for tearing up every level and leading the organization in homers and RBI last season, was expected to factor into the first base/DH scenario to open the season.

Mervis is slashing .295/.407/.580 in Iowa and has six homers and 27 runs driven in on the farm — certainly appearing to be big-league-ready.

Eric Hosmer, who has Mervis' potential roster spot on the big league club, is hitting .250 and has a sub .300 OBP for the Cubs.

Nobody expected the Cubs to contend for a World Series in 2023, but the Cubs are a solid team with the potential to make the playoffs.

When you look into the future, guys like Mervis and Morel factor into long-term plans; Rios, Torrens, and Mastrobouni do not.

The Cubs are good, but they are not good enough to not fully maximize the potential of their roster and have the best players available for use on the big league club. This was on prime display against the Marlins this weekend.

This team certainly has better depth than in years past, but they do not have enough depth to withstand the missing offense by keeping some of their best players in the minors and saving roster spots at the big-league level for projects.

It is one thing if the Cubs wanted Mervis and Morel to focus on certain things — but a month into the minor league season, both players are clear and away the two best players at the AAA level — and better options than some of the players on the big league team, time to make the call.

I would rather see Christopher Morel bat in the eighth inning of a close game off the bench than Edwin Rios. I would instead Matt Mervis get the start at DH instead of Luis Torrens.

There is no harm in having your best players on the big league team; it is the only way the Cubs can genuinely be a contender this season. It's time to pull the trigger.

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