It is highly possible you did not know the name Matt Mervis before 2022. That changed quickly as he ascended the minors and performed better at each stop.
Mervis was not selected in the shortened, five-round draft in 2020. He didn’t take that lightly either, as undrafted players in the 2020 draft could sign with any team for $20k. Mervis talks about making detailed spreadsheets that focused on organizations that were solid developers but also had an open depth chart at first base. Many teams were interested, but the Cubs were the ultimate winners for Mervis’s contract.
A disappointing 2021 season made Mervis a complete afterthought, but 2022 made him a household name and everyone’s favorite sleeper in fantasy baseball drafts for 2023. What should you expect from Matt “Mash” Mervis from a fantasy standpoint? Let’s dive in.
Matt Mervis: 2023 Fantasy Baseball Breakout
Who is Matt Mervis?
2022 Stats (A+/AA/AAA): 578 PA/.309/.379/.606/36 HR/119 RBI/92 R
The nickname fits; Matt Mervis mashed in 2022 with 36 home runs in 578 plate appearances. He even added six more in the Arizona Fall League. Mervis took some flak for being 24 years old in High-A to start the season. Part of it was totally out of his control due to losing the 2020 season to COVID and getting just 303 plate appearances in 2021. While he was old in High-A to start the 2022 season, that lasted just 27 games before Mervis got the bump to Double-A. He was slightly below the league-average age there. It was not long before he found himself in Triple-A, mashing home runs to outer space. Most impressively, Mervis continued to get better at every level.
Looking at pure power output, Mervis finished third among all Minor League hitters with 36 home runs. He trailed just Moises Gomez, who had 39, and Alexander Canario, who finished with 37 home runs. Naturally, Mervis led all hitters with 119 RBI and scored 92 runs. On top of the massive home run total, Mervis had 40 doubles and two triples. His 78 extra-base hits led all Minor League hitters.
Those numbers should make it clear; Matt Mervis mashed in 2022. What is the expectation moving forward, and what does the data look like under the hood? Let’s dig in.
Matt Mervis’s Power
When you think of Matt Mervis, you likely think of his power, and for good reason. As previously discussed, he finished third among all Minor Leaguers in home runs and first in extra-base hits and RBI. Mervis ended the 2022 season with an impressive .417 wOBA and a .390 xwOBA. Of MiLB hitters with at least 400 plate appearances, only five had a higher xwOBA.
Mervis’s 105 mph 90th-percentile exit velocity puts him well in the upper tier of Minor League hitters but also solidly above average for Major Leaguers. His 87.8 mph average exit velocity may not wow you, but the 90th percentile exit velocity shows you the high-end power that Mervis possesses.
When it comes to high pitching velocity, Mervis handles it well. Against fastballs that were 95 mph or higher, Mervis slashed .319/.360/.468, which is quite impressive for Minor League standards.
A report had some people questioning if Mervis could handle fastballs due to his low bat speed. I can’t speak for actual data on his bat speed directly, but seeing him live and on film shows me solid bat speed. While I did not get a great video of Mervis in Arizona, Chris Welsh certainly did. Check out his video below and drop him a follow on Twitter.
Matt Mervis absolutely put this in the clouds and it carried and carried out. Started 3-0 then got his pitch and dropped it out off a lefty. Love to see it @Cubs fans
— The Welsh (@IsItTheWelsh) October 26, 2022
Mervis is great against high velocity, but also all fastballs in general. His 90th-percentile exit velocity against all fastballs was 106.4 mph, leading to a .454 wOBA. Mervis also can turn on fastballs up in the zone. He hit a home run this season on a pitch that was 97 mph up and Mervis crushed it. His hard-hit rate on pulled balls was 57.3%.
Breaking pitches did not give him problems, as he produced a .334 wOBA against them. The MLB league average wOBA against breaking pitches in 2022 was .272. Changeups looked like meatballs to Mervis, as he produced a .433 wOBA against them. For reference, the MLB league average was .284.
Some may argue that he just performed well against poor pitching, but even though he started in High-A, Mervis had 230 plate appearances in Double-A and 240 in Triple-A. There is no denying the type of power Matt Mervis brings to the table.
Matt Mervis’s Plate Approach
Mervis is a pretty aggressive hitter, but his walk rates improved at every level in 2022. His profile is interesting because, despite the aggressive approach, Mervis’s chase rate is not something to be concerned about.
A 71.8 zone-swing percentage to pair with an 84.4% zone-contact rate shows strong instincts on pitches in the zone. Mervis also posted an overall contact rate of 75.9%, just below the MLB average in 2022.
There is also minimal reason to worry about Mervis getting into a platoon as a left-handed hitter. He posted a .869 OPS against left-handed pitchers in 2022 and a respectable 25.2% strikeout rate. Nine of Mervis’s home runs came against lefties despite having 174 plate appearances against them.
Mervis is not the type of hitter that will ever be lauded for his hit tool, but he has shown he can post a respectable batting average. There is even some safety in his offensive profile based on all the data discussed.
Matt Mervis’s 2023 Fantasy Baseball Outlook
As things stand, Matt Mervis is penciled in for an everyday role with the Chicago Cubs. Whether at first base or designated hitter, the Cubs don’t have a great option for either outside of Mervis and they are unlikely to bring people in to fill both roles. Given that Mervis spent nearly half his season in Triple-A and will be 25 years old, he is ready for his chance in the Majors. The Cubs even sent Mervis to the Arizona Fall League after a full season in the Minors.
The hype in redraft leagues is growing, especially after many people saw him hit a home run live at First Pitch Arizona. Mervis’s current ADP in NFBC Draft Champions sits at 283, with a minimum pick of 220. Anywhere after pick 250 seems like a great spot, especially given the landscape of first basemen going near him in drafts.
In a dynasty league, I think there is still plenty of time to acquire Matt Mervis at a reasonable cost. If he is not rostered, he should be picked up immediately. You should consider checking in with his manager on his acquisition cost before he debuts and his stock potentially soars. If Mervis gets regular playing time in 2023, he could approach 25 home runs with a .260-.270 batting average.
Photo from MiLB.com and Wikimedia Commons | Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)