No, that’s not a typo in the headline. For all the hype surrounding prospects the Cubs got back in return for former franchise icons, it’d be easy to gloss over an undrafted free agent out of Duke who hit .204 with nine homers at Low-A last season. You won’t see Matt Mervis among the Cubs’ top 30 prospects on MLB Pipeline either, though his breakout performance and uncertainty at first base in Chicago have given him more than a little helium.
At 6-foot-4 and a very solid 225 pounds with good footwork and nice feel around the bag at first, Mervis passes the eye test with flying colors. I know it sounds a little corny, but he’s one of those dudes you only have to watch for a little bit to understand that he knows what he’s doing out there on the field. Even better, the numbers he’s putting up at Double-A Tennessee are proof of his talent.
Mervis batted .350 with seven homers in 108 plate appearances for South Bend before heading south, where he’s actually gotten better. Though his batting average has dipped all the way down to .330 over 98 PAs, his OBP is nearly identical thanks to doubling his walk rate to 9.2% so far. He’s hit eight homers and eight doubles to fuel a .693 slugging percentage and .453 wOBA.
With two hits in each of his last three games, including a double in each, Mervis has reached base safely in all 23 games he’s played with the Smokies. That streak stretches to his last five games in South Bend as well and, as @ballskwok points out, Mervis has reached in 45 of 50 total games this season. All this after starting out hitting .226 with no homers through nine games.
Matt Mervis has reached base in all 23 games in AA and has reached in his last 28 games overall. The last time he didn’t reach base was on May 8th. Before that, it was April 19th. That’s one game in the last 42 where he didn’t reach base. Has reached in 45 of 50 games this year.
— Brad (@ballskwok) June 13, 2022
Since then, he’s got a .363 average and 1.152 OPS with 15 homers and 33 runs scored in 41 games. Mervis is very close to proving he’s got no use for Double-A, but there might not be room for him in Iowa with Alfonso Rivas, Nelson Maldonado, and Jared Young already there. Plus we’re still talking about less than half a season so far.
Once things shake out after the trade deadline, however, I could see the Cubs sort of fast-tracking the 24-year-old Mervis. They’ve needed left-handed power in the worst way for quite a while now, and this would be an easy way to find some.
Speaking of power, how about the display Kevin Alcantara put on Sunday afternoon for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. One of the Cubs’ legion of young hitters, the lanky outfielder went 4-for-6 with a pair of three-run home runs, a triple, and a single to plate eight runs in a big win. He’s now batting .285 with an .899 OPS and nine homers on the season.
"He himself is entertainment."
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) June 12, 2022
Can you imagine a South Bend outfield featuring Alcantara, Pete Crow-Armstrong, and Owen Caissie? PCA is the elder statesman of that trio and he only turned 20 in late March. The other two won’t be out of their teens until July, but all of them have exceeded expectations this season. Alcantara, who came over from the Yankees in the Anthony Rizzo deal, is incredibly intriguing because of his frame.
Already displaying prodigious power and smooth athleticism, he can easily add a great deal of strength to a 6-foot-6 frame that’s only carrying around 190 pounds. At the risk of inviting takes about the comp, this young man reminds me a lot of Eloy Jiménez during his time in the Cubs organization. Maybe that means they’ll trade Alcantara for a back-end starter next month.
With little to look forward to in Chicago at this point, it would be nice for the Cubs to continue being aggressive with their promotions as young players more or less force their way up to higher levels.