Cubs Prospect Profile: Matt Mervis
Photo courtesy: Iowa Cubs

Cubs Prospect Profile: Matt Mervis

by - Senior Writer -

At some point, the Cubs will be forced to make some tough decisions, and one of those decisions is Matt Mervis. The former undrafted free agent from Duke University has been killing the ball in the minors the past two seasons and appears to be knocking on the door of the bigs.

He had his chance last season, but wasn't given much playing time after he went into a slump and was sent down to the minors for the rest of the season. Considering the Cubs need a 1B, Mervis is the ideal fit, as he is a lefty bat who will provide some power. Should the Cubs go out and trade for Pete Alonso or add Rhys Hoskins or Cody Bellinger in free agency, Mervis would be the odd man out again, which would force the Cubs hand to trade him in an effort to give him an opportunity to play.

Initially a 39th-round selection by the Washington Nationals in 2016, Mervis made it clear that he wouldn't sign and thus committed to Duke University as a two-way player. After being primarily a pitcher during his first two seasons with the Blue Devils, Mervis became a hitter during his final two seasons and put up gaudy numbers to put himself on the draft board radar. Had it not been for the COVID-shortened season in 2020, Mervis would've been drafted, but that benefitted the Cubs as they managed to get him as an undrafted free agent and signed him to 20K.

Knowing that he wouldn't play in 2020, the 2021 season was a struggle for him as it was for many other players who lost a year of development. Mervis played in 72 games that season and struggled to reach the Mendoza line, finishing the season with just a .208 average. He did have nine homers and 44 RBIs, but you could tell he wasn't happy with his performance, as that isn't the type of hitter he is.

Then came 2022 when Mervis not only put himself on the map, but became one of the best hitters in all of minor league baseball. Across 137 games spanning from High-A to AAA, Marvis was on a mission and was a player you couldn't stop. Not only did he hit a .309 that season, but he did so with a .379 OBP and a .605 slugging percentage. Mervis also put up one of the more prolific seasons in Cubs Minor League history. He finished second behind teammate Alexander Canario with 36 bombs, but led the minors with 119 RBIs. Any time you have a season like that, you will get noticed and the teams took notice of Mervis all season.

Expected to compete for a spot on the opening-day roster, Mervis was sent back to AAA after the Cubs acquired Eric Hosmer and Trey Mancini. Once again, he was tearing the cover off the ball, leaving the Cubs no choice, but to call him up in May. Once he reached the show, Mervis looked overmatched at times but was still only given 90 at-bats in 27 games. He hit just .167 in the majors and added three homers with 11 RBIs. Then came a lengthy slump that saw David Ross go away from him, and he was never allowed to adjust and thus found his way back into the minors.

The rest is history as Mervis finished 2023 with a .282 average in AAA, adding 22 homers and driving in 78. He also took a career-high 67 walks and struck out 100 times as he continues to prove he has nothing left to prove at the minor league level. That leaves the Cubs with the tough decision of what to do with him this season, as they can only leave him in AAA for a while.

Given that Mervis possesses some of the best power and contact in the Cubs organization, you would love for the Cubs to give him a chance to earn the starting 1B job out of camp. For whatever reason, Ross didn't like playing young guys, which Craig Counsell likes to do, so expect Mervis to get a fair shot this spring. Although Mervis has a weird swing that could use some adjustments, his numbers have skyrocketed the past two seasons after making subtle changes, so you know he isn't afraid to change things if needed.

After earning his call-up last season, many felt that Mervis put too much pressure on himself and tried to do too much at the plate. When that happens, you tend to struggle, and he had plenty of struggles in his one month with the team. However, at 6-4 and 225 pounds, Mervis can provide the Cubs with the left-handed power their lineup lacks, but he is also more than just a masher as he brings a great eye and one of the better overall hitting approaches.

His relatively compact left-handed swing enables him to make consistent hard contact, and he did a much better job of handling same-side pitchers in 2022 than he did in his debut. Mervis may not be a speedster or much of a runner at all, but he is adequate enough to play 1B. However, his defense has come into question, which is why many feel he will be more of a DH than a fielder.

Whatever worries people had about him in the field, he looked very comfortable during his time with the Cubs last season and will only get better with more reps at first. Mervis is the most polarizing player in the Cubs system right now, as the team needs to make a tough decision on what to do with him long-term.

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