The Arizona Fall League announced its annual Fall Stars teams Friday afternoon, with Cubs prospects Matt Mervis and Bailey Horn earning nods for the NL squad. The Fall Stars Game will take place at 3pm CT on Sunday, November 6, though I don’t see broadcast information listed as of yet.
— MLB's Arizona Fall League (@MLBazFallLeague) November 4, 2022
Mervis is tied for the league lead with five home runs, doing so in fewer at-bats than anyone with more than three dingers. He was slashing .275/.321/.608 in 14 games through Thursday and only struck out five times in 56 plate appearances. If he’s able to carry this over into spring training, he’s pretty much guaranteed to break camp for Chicago as the starting first baseman.
Horn, who came over as the return from the White Sox in the Ryan Tepera trade last season, broke out after flying under the radar for the most part throughout the season. The 24-year-old southpaw reliever threw 48 innings between South Bend and Tennessee, striking out 74 batters over that time. Control was a bit of an issue, however, as he walked 32 batters.
Horn posted a 1.50 ERA with nine strikeouts over 12 innings by allowing just two total runs on six hits. The Cubs are going to work on his control as he develops because he issued seven free passes in eight games. Some of that can come from getting a feel for new pitches, though this isn’t just an AFL thing and it’s hard to chalk it up to grip changes or whatever.
With a fastball that sits low 90s and touches 94-95, Horn has a fastball and slider that both flash plus-plus if he’s able to command them. I don’t think he’s anywhere near his ceiling, it’ll just take some more work with Craig Breslow’s team to tighten a few things up.
Since I may have come off as a little negative earlier, I should note that it’s a very encouraging sign to have a standout performance from a pitching prospect who had little to no hype. Some of that has to do with that fact that Horn is a reliever, just like the other three pitchers the Cubs assigned to the AFL — Zac Leigh, Sheldon Reed, and Riley Martin. Those guys rarely pop up on prospect rankings because of their limited role, so it’s not uncommon for them to seemingly come out of nowhere.
You can’t just make up a whole pitching staff with converted starters, so it’s good to see how the Cubs are developing more than just the handful of arms we hear about most frequently.
Update: Mervis just hit his sixth homer of the AFL season, this one against a lefty. He’s ready.
Uhh Matt Mervis just destroyed a baseball off a lefty. Top 200 ADP here we come! pic.twitter.com/ty3U8DAxBc
— Frank Stampfl (@Roto_Frank) November 4, 2022