Will Cubs make room for hot-hitting Mervis?
While fans wait for the rebuild to play out, the Cubs have made household names out of guys like Pete Crow-Armstrong and Kevin Alcantara, two of the team's higher-rated prospects.
But while those guys are still in Single A, another player who is not on any top prospects list is closing in on 100 RBI.
Heading into Friday's action, Iowa Cubs first baseman Matt Mervis was hitting .312 with 24 home runs and 94 RBI across three levels.
"He's having a great year," Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said. "I remember, it might have been my first phone call when we had that sprint signing period after the 2020 draft. Was really excited to sign him right after that opened up. Started out a little bit slow in pro ball, but this year he's really taken off."
Mervis joined the Cubs as an undrafted free agent because he came out during the pandemic year, when the MLB Draft was shortened to five rounds and there was a scramble to sign whoever was left.
When Kris Bryant was minor league player of the year in 2014 and a top-10 prospect, he hit .325 with 43 home runs and 110 RBI. Bryant split the year between Double A Tennessee and Triple A Iowa. Mervis has made stops at South Bend, Tennessee and Iowa.
"I think it's too early to proclaim anything," Hoyer said. "He's one of those really good stories in the minors and it's fun to see him keep hitting. Hopefully he keeps hitting all the way up here."
It's a little strange that Mervis is generally not included on lists of Cubs' top prospects. He's not on MLB Pipeline's top 30 or Fan Graph's top 49.
But it is easy to see why he's flown under the radar. During his first two years of college at Duke, Mervis was primarily a pitcher and collected just 10 at-bats. He became a position player in his junior year and did OK, then his senior season included just 16 games due to the pandemic.
In between, though, he had a nice summer playing for Cotuit in the Cape Cod League, hitting .325. Mervis went on "The Call Up" podcast earlier this summer and explained his switch.
"The Cape is where I realized I can really hit at the next level," he said. "Deep down I always knew I was a hitter. I just had to put the pieces together."
Mervis -- a Potomac, Maryland, native -- said he got to know Cubs East Coast scout Billy Swoope in high school and had another connection in Cotuit manager Mike Roberts, which made his free-agent decision easier.
Mervis is a left-handed batter, and if there's a flaw in his game right now, it's hitting left-handed pitchers. As he moved up this year, he hit .375 against lefties in South Bend, then .210 in Tennessee and .143 in Iowa. He did collect an RBI double Thursday against Louisville left-hander Brandon Williamson, the No. 4 prospect in the Reds organization.
The Cubs have been playing Patrick Wisdom at first base more often, so they might be thinking about a platoon at the position next year, with Mervis getting a chance in the big leagues. But plenty of things could happen this winter between trades and free-agency to affect the Cubs lineup.
Plenty of the Cubs' top prospects have a long hill to climb in the minors. Shortstop Christian Hernandez, who is ranked No. 63 in MLB Pipeline's Top 100, is currently hitting .270 in the Arizona Rookie League.
Meanwhile, Mervis might pass Bryant's minor league RBI total before the season ends. It's an interesting case of production vs. potential and the Cubs will be watching how it plays out.