Mervis getting his mojo back in Triple-A

April 15th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Jordan Bastian’s Cubs Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CHICAGO -- was one of the best stories in all of the Minor Leagues two years ago, when he rapidly ascended up the Cubs’ organizational ladder. That momentum helped carry the first baseman to the Majors last season, but his initial taste of the big leagues served as a harsh learning experience.

Beyond tackling issues with his swing and approach, Mervis wanted to use this spring to talk to players who have experienced the peaks and valleys of reaching the Majors and making the required adjustments.

“Obviously the time in the big leagues was frustrating,” Mervis said last month. “That's not how I wanted my first stint to go, but I definitely learned a lot and talked to a bunch of guys who have been there for a while and had success, like Nico [Hoerner]. I’m learning from guys who have gone through it.

“There are plenty of guys who go up and struggle for the first time. I’m not hitting the panic button. I’m just trying to learn from it.”

Through his first 13 games back with Triple-A Iowa, the 25-year-old Mervis -- ranked by Pipeline as the Cubs’ No. 13 prospect -- looks like himself again. He has hit .333/.424/.688 with four home runs, five doubles, 10 RBIs and seven walks, compared to 16 strikeouts.

Mervis said his offseason focus centered around drills to make him less “rotational” and clean up his direction to the ball in his swing. He also explained that his MLB experience, which included a .167 average and a .531 OPS in 27 games with the Cubs in 2023, also showed him he needed to get back to improving his offensive pitch selection.

“Mechanically, in '22, I just kind of rolled up to the field and I had a swing that I liked and I was able to go play,” Mervis said. “Last year, I didn't quite have the same feeling. I knew I needed to address that and find a couple of things that I wanted to work on and take with me into the season, so I can kind of have some checkpoints.

“And from a pitchers’ perspective, they got me to chase a lot. So, it's just trying to shrink the strike zone and stick to swinging at the pitches that I'm good at hitting.”

Let’s highlight three more players from the Cubs’ full-season affiliates:

Double-A Tennessee: INF
After being picked by the Cubs in the first round of the 2023 Draft, Shaw enjoyed a strong professional debut last season. He then impressed the Cubs this spring as an invitee to his first Major League camp. Now, the 22-year-old Shaw (Pipeline’s No. 4 Cubs prospect and the No. 50 prospect in baseball) is off to a great start this year. Through seven games, Shaw has hit .381/.552/.905 with three homers, five RBIs and three stolen bases.

High-A South Bend: SS
The 18-year-old Rojas is more than three years younger than the average High-A position player, but the Cubs are confident the young shortstop can handle that type of challenge. Through his first eight games with the South Bend Cubs, Rojas (Pipeline’s No. 8 Cubs prospect) has hit .314/.351/.543 with two homers, one triple, seven RBIs and two stolen bases. Chicago signed Rojas out of the Dominican Republic in January 2022.

Single-A Myrtle Beach: INF/OF
The Cubs acquired Preciado as part of the trade that shipped ace Yu Darvish to the Padres prior to the 2021 season. Injury and performance issues contributed to Preciado falling out of Pipeline’s rankings, but the 20-year-old utility man is off to a solid start this year. Through eight games, Preciado has hit .389/.421/.417 with one double, four RBIs, seven runs and three stolen bases, while moving between second base and left field.