The 2023 baseball season has arrived for both MLB and MiLB, and both Cub teams have played in their season opener. The Cubs’ 2022 Minor League Player of the Year winner, Matt Mervis, jumped out to his dominating ways that he showcased in three levels last season.
In the AAA Iowa Cubs’ 11-5 season-opener win against the Columbus Clippers (Cleveland Guardians system), Mervis finished 2-2 (HR, Double off right-center fence), including a walk and a hit by pitch. Mervis’ first home run of the 2023 season was part of a five-run fourth inning that blew the game open.
Mervis’ grand rise throughout the minor leagues couldn’t have come at a better moment for the Chicago Cubs. Since three-time All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo was traded to the New York Yankees in the middle of the 2021 season, Cubs’ first basemen have struggled to produce on the field.
This wasn’t always the case, though.
Following Rizzo’s departure, rookie sensation Frank Schwindel burst onto the scene, performing extraordinarily in 56 games. Schwindel was voted sixth in the 2021 Rookie of the Year, despite only playing in 34% of games.
Schwindel, however, proved to only be a one-year wonder, struggling in 75 games to a below-average .277 On-Base Percentage and -1.2 WAR. Schwindel was eventually Designated For Assignment, and the Cubs continued to search for a power-hitting first baseman to potentially replace Rizzo, who was with the team from 2012-2021.
Mervis provides exactly that.
While Mervis’ strikeout rate is concerning (107 Ks to 50 BBs last season), his raw power and success in the highest levels of minor league baseball should allow a professional debut at Wrigley Field early this season.
Right now, veteran Eric Hosmer is manning first base, but I’m certain his one-year minimum contract allows the Cubs to move on from him when/if necessary. The team has a much greater investment in the 24-year-old mashin’ Mervis.
Mervis is one of a few very talented, eye-opening prospects in the Cubs’ system.
He is the seventh overall prospect, after all. The Cubs might have the deepest minor league outfield tandem in all of baseball. Brennen Davis, Pete Crow-Armstrong and Kevin Alcántara are all names atop the prospect rankings. Not to mention, Christopher Morel debuted with the Iowa Cubs this season, despite playing 113 games on the major league roster last season.
In short, I think the Cubs are doing this right. There are plenty of intriguing prospects in the farm system right now (the strongest it’s been since the mid-2010s when most major prospects succeeded en route to the team’s first championship in over a century), but playing time is crucial.
There’s zero reason to rush potential star-level players. The Cubs’ timetable for success is 2024, even if they finish close to the top of the NL Central this season.
It will only be a matter of time before many studs are roaming Wrigley Field, providing plentiful success to the best fans in baseball.