The Chicago Cubs call up first baseman Matt Mervis, the team announced on Friday. The left-handed slugger moved incredibly quickly through the minors after being out of drafts in 2020 and will be in the starting lineup at Wrigley Field Friday afternoon for the Cubs, batting seventh. Edwin Ríos was optioned to Triple-A in a corresponding move.
Mervis, 25, was a pitcher in his first and second years at Duke before starting his last two years with regular at bats. He was not drafted again in the 2020 truncated draft (remember there were only five rounds that year) and the Cubs signed him soon after. He spent the 2021 season mostly with Class A Myrtle Beach. Last season, Mervis played in 27 High-A games, 53 in Double-A and then 57 in Triple-A. In 137 total games, he hit .309/.379/.606 with 40 doubles, 36 homers, 116 RBI and 92 runs.
There was a ton of hype surrounding Mervis in the Cubs fan circles this season, but the Cubs brought in veterans Eric Hosmer and Trey Mancini, relegating Mervis to a return to Triple-A.
In 24 games in Triple-A this season, Mervis batted .286/.402/.560 with seven doubles, six homers, 27 RBI and 27 runs with nearly as many walks as strikeouts. There has been a question about Mervis hitting left handers and while it is a very small sample (27 at bats), he has hit .300/.482/.700 against left handers this season.
CBS Sports prospect expert RJ Anderson recently had this to say about Mervis:
[W]We think Mervis will have a chance to spend some serious time in the majors this season. He finished with a .977 OPS in 57 Triple-A games last year, demonstrating above-average strength and propensity to hit right-handers. Even if Mervis excels as a platoon player, he will have been a scouting and development win since he joined the Cubs as an undrafted free agent.
While not necessarily played as a regular pack (the two batted together in the lineup with one on DH at times), Hosmer would be the left-swinging portion of the first base tandem, batting .250/.294/. 363 (78 OPS+) to date.
The Cubs certainly wouldn’t call Mervis to bench him, so this promotion could well be bad news for Hosmer. He may have just moved to a bench role, but a release is possible. He only makes the league minimum, so there isn’t really a financial component to keeping him around. The Cubs lost five out of six on Thursday — and were losing again when this news came out — so there’s no “clubhouse chemistry” component at this point either.
Either way, the best bet is Mervis finding regular game time on the north side to get ahead.