Matt Mervis continues mashing for the Iowa Cubs

Should Matt Mervis get a big-league call-up? originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

One of the biggest questions entering the 2023 season was whether or not the Chicago Cubs would be able to hit enough to back up their improved pitching depth, and Saturday’s loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers did little to address those doubts.

Collectively, the Cubs managed just four hits against the Dodgers and scored one run before losing in walkoff fashion in a 2-1 defeat.

While Dansby Swanson’s cooldown at the plate has contributed a bit to the struggles of the lineup, having struck out seven times in eight at-bats against the Dodgers, it has to be asked whether or not the Cubs need a spark in their lineup, especially at the first base position, where hotshot prospect Matt Mervis is currently thriving in Triple-A Iowa.

Trey Mancini and Eric Hosmer were called upon to split time at first base to start the season for the big-league Cubs, and while both are tied for the team lead in RBI’s with Ian Happ and Cody Bellinger, their underlying statistics tell a much different story.

In Saturday’s game, Hosmer went 0-for-2 and saw just two pitches before being removed for Luis Torrens later in the contest. Overall this season he does have a .256 batting average, but his expected batting average (XBA) is just .185, lowest on the team among those with at least 25 plate appearances, according to Statcast. 

His slugging percentage is also .308, indicating that he isn’t hitting for much power, and his expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) is .227, by far the lowest on the team.

Mancini is hitting .234 on the year, with a .298 slugging percentage. According to ESPN, he is also the team’s only negative player in terms of Wins Above Replacement, checking in at -0.5 just 13 games into the season.

His xwOBA is .268, with both he and Hosmer the only Cubs below the .300 mark with at least 25 at-bats to their credit.

When contrasted with the success Mervis is seeing in Iowa, it’s easy to see why some Cubs fans are getting restless about a potential call-up for the rapidly-ascending prospect. In 41 at-bats so far this season, Mervis has hit three home runs for Iowa and driven in 13 RBI’s, while putting together an on-base percentage of .456 and an on-base plus slugging of 1.041.

Most importantly, he has gotten off to a great start to the season in terms of his plate discipline, drawing more walks (13) than strikeouts (9).

Of course, there are still questions that the Cubs are evaluating when it comes to potentially bringing Mervis to the big leagues. He didn’t put up eye-popping power numbers at the college level,maxing out at six home runs for the Duke Blue Devils during the 2019 season, but he has since matured into a prodigious bopper, with 36 home runs and 119 RBI’s last season.

Last season was also the first time that Mervis had an extended look at pitching above the Single-A level, and though he thrived in each of his successive stops as he bounced from South Bend to Des Moines, there’s still the question of how he will react to that next step up, and to any adversity that he might face in doing so.

While Mancini is under contract for two years, the Cubs wouldn’t have an issue if they were to cut bait with Hosmer, as he is playing for the league minimum this season. That factor could encourage the Cubs to call Mervis up if he continues to hit well, and it’s a storyline worth monitoring in the weeks ahead.

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