Mervis’ road from undrafted to red-hot Cubs prospect originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
A little over two years ago, Matt Mervis signed with the Cubs as an undrafted free agent out of Duke.
This weekend, he’ll officially be one step away from the big leagues. The Cubs are promoting the first base prospect to Triple-A Iowa.
Mervis, now in his second professional season, isn’t ranked among the Cubs’ top 30 prospects by evaluators like MLB Pipeline and Baseball America.
But the 24-year-old’s 2022 season has been as attention-grabbing and eye-opening as any player in the Cubs’ farm system.
And maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise.
“We were really excited about Matt going into the  draft,” Cubs VP of scouting Dan Kantrovitz said this week.
As the Cubs were scouting the 2020 draft pool, they pegged Mervis as somebody they would target around Rounds 3-5.
But with teams cutting costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MLB slashed the 2020 draft to five rounds, down from the usual 40.
It meant many prospects, including Mervis — who was a two-way player at Duke — went undrafted.
“We liked him both ways, which is a tribute to the athlete that he was and is,” Kantrovitz said.
With the draft slashed to five rounds, MLB allowed teams to sign as many undrafted free agents as they pleased.
And that’s when the Cubs came calling — again. They already had a line of communication open with Mervis because he was on their draft board.
“We had established that with him months before the actual draft unfolded,” Kantrovitz said. “We already had laid the groundwork there. I think he was comfortable with us from that standpoint.”
After Mervis went undrafted, Kantrovitz said the Cubs pitched how he fit their hitting infrastructure and could improve within in, a process that included collaboration with their player development staff and research and development team.
“I think he was impressed enough to choose us in that unprecedented free agency process that unfolded after the 2020 draft,” Kantrovitz said.
Mervis spent almost all of 2021 with Single-A Myrtle Beach, his first professional season after the canceled 2020 minor-league season — save for a three-game stretch with Iowa to end the season.
He registered a .677 OPS in 72 games last season before breaking out in 2022. Mervis opened with Single-A South Bend and hit .350/.389/.650 with seven home runs and 29 RBIs in 27 games.
It earned him a promotion to Double-A Tennessee in May and he picked up where he left off, batting .300/.370/.596 with 14 homers and 51 RBIs in 53 contests.
All said, he’s hitting .317/.376/.614 with 21 home runs and 80 RBIs in 80 games.
“To see his success so far, now heading to Triple-A, I don’t think that’s something that you could expect anybody to do as quickly as he’s done it,” Kantrovitz said.
“But I’m really proud of our staff and in everybody that was involved in that, because it was a team effort.
“Just to see him get to where he has so far, now he’s just a fingernail away from the big leagues. We’re all rooting for him.”
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