Feature photo of Matt Mervis by Rich Biesterfeld.

I’ve been out of the writing game for a fairly extended period of time as Todd has done a tremendous job holding down the fort here at NSB. Hopefully you’ll forgive me as I was doing last minute prep for my wedding, went on my honeymoon, and came back to Illinois to return to normalcy of a sort.

Over the last month or so, I’ve seen a trend on social media in the prospects that people have been extra locked-in on. Five names show up all over my Twitter feed and everywhere in the comments on Facebook. While you won’t find me getting in battles in the replies, I will give you my thoughts right here…

Matt Mervis

Let’s start with the guy that’s not only been all over the news this last month, but literally the entire year long. Mash was just recently named to the AFL Fall Stars team as well as the field for the Home Run Derby. Given *gestures broadly at everything* there have been plenty of calls/assumptions that Mervis should be the starting first baseman in Chicago on opening day.

While I strongly believe Mervis is the best option for that role, I also am borderline terrified that fans are setting expectations far too high for this kid. By and large, first base “top prospects” produce a small number of top tier Major League talent. In recent seasons, you are significantly more likely to find guys you’ve never heard of than someone like Pete Alonso or Rhys Hoskins when you search through old MLB Pipeline first base rankings.

All I’m saying is that you should set your expectations, both short-term and long-term, reasonably. I’m not mentally prepared for Twitter’s uproar when Mervis hits .240/.290/.350 over the first 2 weeks of the 2023 season.

Alexander Canario

Canario had a season that, while talked about pretty heavily, would have REALLY been the talk of the system this year if it weren’t for the man above (Mervis, not God). Thanks to a pretty severe ankle fracture and a shoulder surgery, I think it would be unfair to expect Canario back anytime before mid-season next year.

I don’t really have a ton to add to this one except what everyone else has seemingly said. This is a big wrench thrown into Canario’s development plan but if the Cubs were basing anything in 2023 off of what the big right-handed hitter could do for the big league team, then they weren’t assembling a competitive enough roster. Where this really hurts roster construction is the option to trade Canario or any other outfield prospect for MLB rotation help. I think the injury slightly increases the likelihood that Darius Hill or Yonathan Perlaza get protected from the Rule 5 Draft and it’s now likely we see an extra couple of MiLB signings closer to Spring Training to backfill for MLB depth.

Brennen Davis

I’ll keep this short and sweet. Brennen Davis missed most of the Fall League, but we weren’t even expecting him to play in the league at all just a couple months back.

Entering 2023, he is in the EXACT same position as we expected him to be in when we had conversations in July and that mimics the position he was in entering 2022: he’ll be slated for Iowa unless he goes truly bananas over the offseason and in Spring Training.

Darius Hill

Outside of Luis Devers, Hill might be the most interesting conversation regarding Rule 5 Draft protection by being added to the 40-man roster. Clearly, he can hit. He tied for the minor league lead in hits this year and his strikeout rate was one of the best in the system. The floor is clearly MLB depth in Triple-A and because of that, there’s a decent chance a team snatches him up in the Rule 5.

Unfortunately, that floor is pretty damn near what his ceiling is as well. He is really more of a left fielder than a center fielder and given his stature, he would never really be a guy that approaches double digit homers in a full season worth of MLB at bats. There isn’t much projection with Hill and for that reason, I would understand teams passing on him in the draft where he returns to the Cubs in Triple-A and serves as, you guessed it, MLB depth.

Bailey Horn

I’ll admit that this one is more of a stretch. There’s definitely been less talk on social media about Horn than the rest of the bunch in this post, but there has been a little chatter, especially now that he’s officially an AFL Fall Star.

The Cubs are lucky the lefty reliever isn’t yet Rule Five eligible because he would be pretty close to a shoo-in to be added to the 40-man roster this winter, further complicating their roster crunch. Instead, he’ll be assigned to either Tennessee or Iowa to begin next year and he has turned into a legitimate prospect since coming over in the Ryan Tepera deal. I think it’s extremely safe to say that we could see Horn in Chicago sometime next summer.