The answer everybody would like to hear is yes. But is that the best answer? Probably not. More than likely, the best answer would be we’re going to have to wait and see.
Obviously, Matt Mervis might be a part of Iowa’s opening day roster, but it’s more than likely that he ends up in Chicago to finish his development as either a designated hitter or a first baseman. As for who will be after him, that’s a very good question.
The Iowa Cubs infield in 2023 will likely be made up of the following prospects: Levi Jordan, Bryce Ball, Andy Weber, Luis Vazquez, Chase Strumpf, and maybe Jake Slaughter. Except for Jordan, they all played an important role in Tennessee making the playoffs last year and advancing to the Southern League Championship Series. Only Jordan and Vasquez played at Iowa for an extended period of time in 2022.
An important thing to remember about these prospects is that they have won at almost every level they’ve been at the past four seasons. We will see if they can provide depth for the major league squad at some point.
I would lay odds that Chase Strumpf might have the best chance of being MLB ready. When Strumpf first came up, he was an outstanding hitter who could hit for average, hit for power, and did the things necessary for which the situation called. That approach has been abandoned for power. Still, he can play third and he can play second but the key for him is going to be how much he strikes out and if he can hit for average.
For Andy Weber, he can play all four infield positions right now in the major leagues. What has held Weber back has been his health. He rarely played in 2021 after playing 100 games in 2019 at South Bend. Last year he played a little over 70. Still, Weber provides an excellent bat and knowledge of the strike zone. He seems to have water running through his veins late in games. That may be the deciding factor in him getting the call.
For Luis Vasquez, he’s been ready for the majors defensively for four years. It’s just been a matter of his bat catching up to his glove. After missing most of 2021, Vasquez got off to a slow start in 2022 before taking off in July and August at Tennessee when he hit .400+ that month. He was promoted to Iowa for a little bit and that experience may help him get acclimated to Triple-A a little bit quicker in 2023 than the other prospects.
As for Slaughter, I’m not sure what to expect. He’s always had the potential to hit. Last year, the Cubs shortened his swing path and he took off. At first, I didn’t know what to think when he started tearing it up at Double-A. I thought, “Where has this guy been for the last two years at South Bend? “Naturally, I was hesitant to jump on the Jake Slaughter hype train. If he can get off to a good start in 2023 and keep his head about him, he might do the same thing at Iowa. Unlike the other players, this may be more about him staying grounded in a swing and his attitude than it is about his physical talents.
For Bryce Ball, he’s got the whole package is a hitter. We saw glimpses of it last year as he terrorized Southern League pitching for the first half of the year before starting to slide off a little bit in the second half. With Mervis likely in Chicago, Ball will have a lot of opportunities to hit the baseball 5 to 6 days a week. They key for him last year was being aggressive early in the count and also laying off the curveball with two strikes. He also showed last year that he could go the other way with more frequency.
As for Jordan, he did not do well in his first go around at Iowa last year. After getting sent back down to Tennessee, Levi earned his way back to Iowa in the middle of the summer, which garnered him a lot of respect. He did well his first month back at Iowa hitting .300 in July before hitting under .250 in the last six weeks of the year. With his ability to play three positions and some occasional power, he has a shot at Chicago, but how much playing time he’s going to get at Iowa in 2023 might be more dependent upon how the other guys are doing.
Trying to get ahead of this question is very difficult.
A lot of the answers hinge upon spring training and just exactly where Slaughter and Mervis are going to be to start 2023. Slaughter could begin the year in Tennessee and Ball could also end up back there to start the year. For Strumpf, Vazquez, Weber, and Jordan, all four should be in Iowa on opening day and their performance is going to say it all as to whether they are going to be ready to help the major league club at any point in 2023.