Matt Mervis – Picture by Todd Johnson
The number one hitting storyline of 2022 was supposed to be the ascension of Brennen Davis to Chicago. That did not happen. After missing 3/4 of the year after undergoing back surgery, there are concerns about him getting back in the swing of things, no pun intended. But for Davis, there has to be a certain rhythm to his swing that his body has to relearn after months off. Still, his athleticism should carry him through and he’ll be ready to go in the spring for Iowa.
The top storyline actually begins this fall with how Davis and Matt Mervis do in the Arizona Fall league along with Owen Caissie and BJ Murray. Those four performances will carry over into the spring.
Let’s get started.
These are in no particular order.
This storyline is going to be all about the gains that the Cubs made in hitting in 2022 carrying over to 2023. Hopefully we will get to see Matt Mervis in Chicago fairly quickly. As well, we hope to get to see the continued maturation of Jake Slaughter and that 2022 was not a flash in the pan. We will see whether Alexander Canario can sustain his prodigious home run rate and how Jordan Nwogu adapts to Double-A. And I am extremely pumped to see if Luis Verdugo can turn some line drives into home runs. The Southern League is much more conducive to hitters than it is for pitchers. There’s a lot of guys making big steps next year and hopefully they will be able to get over that hump in 2023 as well.
2. Brennen’s Hot Start
By the spring, Brennen Davis should be fully healthy and recovered from his back surgery. It’s not required that he get off to a fast start next year, but it wouldn’t hurt. After missing most of 2022, he needs to get back in the routine of driving the ball. As I mentioned before, how he does in Arizona this fall will go a long way towards his confidence heading into the year. As of right now, things are returning to normal.
3. Alexander Canario
For Canario, he struggled with an ankle injury his first few weeks in Iowa before he sat down for a little bit. Then he just exploded the last two weeks of the year. For someone who hit 37 home runs at three levels, it’ll be interesting to see how the Cubs handle the 22-year-old outfielder and how much seasoning they think he needs at Iowa before he’s ready for Chicago.
4. Double-A: The Next Big Step
For Pete Crow-Armstrong, Double-A it’s going to be a huge test in his development. You should feel pretty good about his chances to do well there mainly because the pitchers there are better. PCA might be one of those prospects who gets better as he faces better competition. Double-A pitchers are in the zone quite a bit more and he can hit strikes. How much he hits for power at that level is going to be intriguing.
5. South Bend Hitters
Now that James Triantos, Kevin Alcantara, and possibly Moises Ballesteros are free from the ocean air, I wonder just how many dingers we’re going to see in the Midwest League from those guys. Don’t expect too much in April when it’s still pretty chilly, but once the middle of May comes, so to should the home run carousel.
6. Draft Picks
I’m pumped to see Hayden McGeary do some hitting next year along with Andy Garriola. Both guys are power bats and I am leaning towards both starting at Myrtle Beach next year. But based on their experience and talent, they might not be there for long. I am getting excited to see an old style leadoff like De’Shun Collier who is going to be exciting. I also wonder how far the Cubs push Chris Paciolla to begin next year . Will he be in extended spring training or in Myrtle Beach?
7. Who’s Ready for Triple-A
Most, but not all, of the Tennessee Smokies position players are ready for a bump up to Iowa. We should see Chase Strumpf, Bryce Ball, Jake Slaughter, and Yonathan Perlaza if he is re-signed or placed on the 40-man. It’s going to be fun to see a team that’s actually full of the Cubs’ own hitting prospects.
8. Cristian and Pedro in Myrtle Beach
Myrtle Beach is going to be fun again next year as we get to see Christian Hernandez on a daily basis for 132 games. The kids are going to get an indoctrination into every day baseball. Hernandez will be 19 to start the year and so will Ramirez and they could be a dynamic duo in the Carolina League. I am not concerned at all about home runs, but I would love to see good approaches and line drives everywhere.
9. Chavers and Franklin
I think these guys are just going to tear it up. Both are college bats and if they’re fully healthy, they are going to do some damage and push some buttons about being promoted. Franklin missed all of 2022 while Chavers did return for the last month and he looks ready to head to South Bend.
10. Adan Sanchez
Sanchez basically showed up in the Dominican and every day it seemed like he went one-for-three. Occasionally, he hit a double or a home run, but he showed a unique knack for getting on base consistently. It’s going to be fun to see how that plays out this year in Mesa.
And just like this year, they are going to be guys that are going to break out. We can guesstimate that Hayden McGeary might be one, Andy Garriola might be another.
There will be trades. It’s more a question of when and what kind than if. Could small trades take place this winter and then big ones next summer at the deadline? We will get started the day after the World Series.