Matt Mervis Ranked No. 4 1B Prospect, Also Makes First Top 101 List (Updated)

Matt Mervis has worn the scarlet letters of UDFA ever since his name wasn’t called during the truncated 2020 draft, and not even a stellar 2022 performance has completely outweighed that fact. His age (25 in April) and position (1B/DH) work pretty heavily against him as well. Case in point, Mervis was named the Cubs’ Minor League Player of the year for ’22 yet MLB Pipeline ranks him 21st among Cubs prospects.

However, that same outlet ranked Mervis as the fourth-best first base prospect in the game after his breakout last year. Triston Casas of the Red Sox came in first, followed by Tyler Soderstrom of the A’s and Kyle Manzardo of the Rays. Casas received the highest power grade with 65, but Mervis tied him in arm strength at 60. You’d expect that from a former college pitcher.

Perhaps even more notable for Mervis, and the Cubs organization as a whole, is that he will find himself on the Baseball Prospectus Top 101 list when it drops Friday. That information comes via BP senior prospect writer Jarrett Seidler, who teased that two 2020 UDFAs made the cut before then confirming them as Mervis and Tigers righty pitching prospect Wilmer Flores.

That could mean the Cubs will have more names on BP’s rankings than the mere three they landed on Baseball America’s recent top 100 list. Pete Crow-Armstrong (25) is a lock to show up on BP and he could be ranked even higher, then you have to figure Brennen Davis (84) and Kevin Alcantara (91) should be named there as well. It’s entirely possible we could also see Cade Horton, Jordan Wicks, or any number of other top Cubs prospects.

Then again, it could end up being PCA, Davis, and Mervis representing an underrated system characterized more by depth than transcendent talent. Rankings aside, the real key is how Mervis goes out and performs this spring with little external pressure on him to force his way onto the roster. The Cubs have added both Eric Hosmer and Trey Mancini to the roster as something of a safety net, but it would be a mistake to force Mervis to Triple-A if he mashes in Mesa.

As we’ve noted here a couple times, however, there’s precedent to having the heir-apparent to the everyday first base gig spend a little more time in Iowa to start the season. Hey, it ended up working out pretty well for Anthony Rizzo.

Update: The Cubs did end up with three prospects on the list, but neither Davis nor Alcántara made it. Mervis came in at No. 88, eight spots behind Owen Caissie and 60 spots behind Pete Crow-Armstrong. This does not necessarily strengthen the case for Mervis to make the Opening Day roster, as BP is not among the publications used to determine a prospect’s eligibility for a service-time manipulation wrinkle in the current CBA.

Under the new rules, teams can receive additional picks in the draft if they promote prospects in time to earn a full year of service time and those players finish highly enough in certain awards voting. Players with 60 days of service or less, who have rookie eligibility and are included in two or more of the preseason top-100 prospect lists put out by Baseball America, or ESPN, are eligible.

If such a player wins Rookie of the Year or finishes in the top three in either Cy Young or MVP voting prior to becoming eligible for arbitration, his team will earn an extra pick after the first round. If an international draft is agreed upon, teams can earn a total of three picks (still just one per year).

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