CHICAGO -- Matt Mervis has enjoyed a strong opening month to his season with Triple-A Iowa, building on what was one of the breakout stories in all of the Minor Leagues a year ago. It has plenty of Cubs fans wondering when the slugging first baseman will get his chance to mash home runs at Wrigley Field.
“At some point, Matt’s going to impact the Cubs,” president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said recently. “There’s no question. When that is? I don’t know.”
The reality right now is that the Cubs added Trey Mancini and Eric Hosmer to help a veteran-laden roster push into the postseason conversation in 2023. That duo is lauded for their presence behind the scenes and will get plenty of rope to work through any ups and downs that April presents in the batter’s box.
The time may come later this summer to pull the lever and promote Mervis -- not currently on the 40-man roster -- but the Cubs will likely keep waiting out some of the early-season, small-sample results before making that kind of decision. Take Mancini, for example. He hit .196 (.470) in his first 14 games, but his showing (two hits, including a homer) in Wednesday’s 5-3 loss gave him a .421 average and 1.289 OPS in his last six games.
“You have to stay patient,” Hoyer said, “and realize there's never going to be a moment this year where all nine guys in the lineup are locked in.”
What the Cubs do not want is to have the 25-year-old Mervis focusing on what is happening in Chicago with the Major League first basemen.
The next phase of his development is to continue to improve defensively and to keep showing the type of strike-zone discipline that helped catapult him up to No. 6 on Pipeline’s Top 30 Cubs prospect list going into this year.
“Baseball’s a difficult game,” Cubs vice president of player development Jared Banner said. “You really have to focus all your energy on your own preparation and performance. I think Matt knows that. He knows that he can only control the controllables and that’s going out there and putting up good ABs, playing good defense, running the bases every day. The rest is not up to him. We’ll see where everything leads.”
Mervis -- signed as a non-drafted free agent after the abbreviated 2020 Draft -- hit .309/.379/.606 with 36 homers, 40 doubles and 119 RBIs in 2022, as he climbed through High-A, Double-A and Triple-A. He saw his walk and strikeout rates improve at each level, he kept hitting in the Arizona Fall League and he suited up for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic for more experience.
Through 19 games this season with Triple-A Iowa, Mervis has hit .275/.402/.551 with five home runs, four doubles, 21 RBIs and 20 runs scored. He had nearly as many walks (15) as strikeouts (17), plus 137 weighted runs created plus (meaning he has performed 37% above average offensively).
“Any good performance is nice to see,” Banner said of Mervis backing up last season’s showing. “At the same time, we expect this from Matt. We’ve always recognized his talent, as has he. It’s a great example that he sets, just with his work ethic, his attention to detail, how much he helps other hitters. He’s just a fun player to have in the system.”