Ethan Hearn – Picture by Stephanie Lynn
It would be ridiculous to think that someone could replicate the season that Matt Mervis put up in 2022. It would be awfully hard to come out of nowhere, more or less, and hit 30+ home runs and drive in almost 110 runs. In 2021, Mervis barely hit .200 but he did show the potential for power and a good approach to the plate. The question for today is do the Cubs have somebody with those characteristics now at Myrtle Beach or lower who could potentially go through three levels of affiliated ball in 2023?
The easy answer to this question is yes, they do. But can someone? More than likely, no. But you never know what’s going to happen in any given season. There are always surprises as Mervis is the perfect case in point.
With Mervis, he was not on the prospect list so for someone to fit the criteria of being a Mervis in 2023 we are going to eliminate several guys from the list now. That includes Kevin Alcantara, James Triantos, Moises Ballesteros, and Reggie Preciado. All of them are either on a top prospect list or have been at some point this season. That eliminated about half the position players. So, who is left that could possibly zoom through three levels of the system next year?
Ezequiel Pagán has had a monster year once he started getting regular playing time. The 2018 draft pick out of a high school in Puerto Rico had a pretty good couple of years in Arizona and then really took off this year displaying some occasional power in a somewhat consistent manner that nobody thought he had. Unlike Mervis, Pagán hit over .300 and he’s not really sneaking up on anybody. He can play all three outfield spots but he’s probably best suited for left.
Odds: 30 to 1
Parker Chavers was taken in the seventh round the 2021 MLB draft by the Cubs. He played a little last year and was injured start this year and only got in 35 games in the second half of the year where he hit .244. But Chavers flashed the ability to drive the ball and once he got in a group, he made consistent contact. I am pumped to see him at South Bend next spring and hopefully he will be healthy all year. If he is, look out!
Odds: 10 to 1
When the Cubs made their fourth round selection in the 2021 MLB draft, I was pretty hyped about them taking Christian Franklin from the University of Arkansas. At one point, Franklin had been a top 50 prospect in the draft but his stock slipped a little bit. He did end up missing all of 2022 due to an injury, but he has all the tools necessary in order to make a move like Mervis. The young outfielder can hit for average and power as well as steal some bases which is a little bit more than Mervis could do. The only problem for Franklin as he is an outfielder in a system steeped in outfielders. In addition, I don’t see him being long at Myrtle Beach, considering his age, but he’s going to have to out play several other guys to get through three levels. I could see him moving from Myrtle Beach to South Bend to Tennessee next season. Once he gets going, he’s going to be hard to stop.
Odds: 10 to 1
Haydn McGeary is the Cubs 15th round pick from this year‘s draft class bottom division to Colorado Mesa. He was a two-time player of the year and put up video game numbers playing a mixture of catcher and first base. He did make it up to Myrtle Beach for 12 games in the regular season where he hit one home run and drove in 8. He hit .292 with a .346 0BP and did not seem to be too overmatched at this level. While he technically could be a classic Cinderella story, he’s probably going to start next year at Myrtle Beach. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see McGeary end 2023 at Tennessee, especially if he gets off to a great start in Myrtle Beach in the spring.
Odds: 10 to 1
Andy Garriola was taken in the 17th round of this year‘s draft out of Old Dominion. He put up crazy numbers in terms of home runs an RBI while hitting for a high average and on base percentage. The knock against him was that he was positionally limited. In other words, his skills in the field were in question. I don’t see that being an issue. Now that the national league has something called the designated hitter, that provides a back door for Gary Ola to develop. As well, you can work on defense. Pro coaches can take prospects and work to improve their skills in the field and it’s something they do it on a daily basis. However, what is going to make Gary Ola the best bet to become next year‘s Mervis is that he can hit it hit for power and he’s done it at a level where he’s already faced elite competition in college. That gives them a little leg up on McGarry, Chavers, and Franklin. I could see Andy putting together an outstanding season next year where he moves from Myrtle Beach, his likely starting point, to South Bend to Tennessee. Depending upon how well he takes the pro instruction, that could happen quickly or it could happen over the course of the entire year.
Odds: 3 to 1
Ethan Hearn has had a nice six or seven week run here where he has been able to hit for a decent average, crank out some home runs, and drive in some runs on a consistent basis. Hearn has spent the last two full seasons at Myrtle Beach and has been an outstanding defender behind the plate and a manager on the field for the pitching staff. He’s quite the hype machine for his guys. His ability to catch has never been a question, the bat just lagged behind as it often does for high school catchers. But this year he started to awaken a little bit which makes me wonder how much he could move next year. Outside of Miguel Amaya who will be at AAA, there’s nobody he really couldn’t supplant at each level next year. I am excited to see him at South Bend.
Odds: 2 to 1
Remember this, the thing is that it did take a while for Mervis to move up for me to have it. He spent a month in South Bend getting in 27 games and then he got in almost 2 months at Tennessee and he’s been in Iowa for the better part of two months. So it’s not like he zoomed out the minors quickly. Nobody really saw it coming.
I’ll be back tomorrow with a look at some starting pitchers who could move three levels next summer.