The average batting line for first basemen in 2022 was .246/.320/.410, wRC+ of 107. For the Cubs, they used various players at the cold corner for a combined slash line of .232/.304/.348, wRC+ of 86, that latter stat being 24th out of the 30 MLB teams. Given that disparity, the Cubs will undoubtedly be looking for better production in 2023. They might have an in-house solution in Matt Mervis, though they will also be looking for external upgrades this winter. “He’s very much in our plans,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said about Mervis, per Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney of The Athletic. “But I think we’re also going to be active in exploring alternatives.”
Mervis has really exploded onto the scene in 2022. As mentioned in the piece linked above, he didn’t get drafted in either 2019 or 2020, eventually signing with the Cubs as an undrafted free agent. He played 72 minor league games in 2021, hitting at a below-average level.
2022 has been a completely different story, however. He began the season in High-A and completely mashed, producing a batting line of .350/.389/.650, wRC+ of 189. He got bumped to Double-A and hit .300/.370/.596 for a wRC+ of 148. After moving to Triple-A, his line was .297/.383/.593, 152 wRC+. Incredibly, his walk rate improved from 4.6% to 8.7% to 10.4% as he moved up the ladder, while his strikeout rate fell from 24.1% to 20% to 14.6%. The Cubs decided to keep the good times rolling by sending him to the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .262/.324/.590 in 17 games.
It’s not just the bat that has the Cubs excited either. “He’s more athletic than people think,” Cubs vice president of player development Jared Banner said. “He knows his way around the bag at first base. He’s a nice, big target, and he actually grades out really well defensively. No concerns there.”
Despite that tremendous breakout season, it stands to reason that the Cubs don’t want to simply hand over the starting job to Mervis just based on that. “We’re thrilled with what he’s doing,” Hoyer said. “We know he’s a big part of where we’re going. But at the same time, we have to be cognizant of having real depth. Injuries and other things happen.”
With Mervis seemingly on the cusp of reaching the majors but not a guarantee to immediately succeed, it’s likely that the club will look for a short-term addition to first base. That way, should Mervis continue charging forward, he wouldn’t be blocked…