Friday, March 24, 2023

3 Prospects Who Can Turn Cubs from Pretenders to Contenders in 2023


The Chicago Cubs are trying to get better, and well, they have improved a few areas on their roster this offseason, but even with some of their free agent additions the Cubs are currently viewed as a .500 team or maybe a couple games over at best heading into 2023. Even with a third Wild Card in the playoff picture, the Cubs are probably on the outside looking in.

They’re squarely behind the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central Division, and then you have the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres battling for playoff spots too. Yeah, the Cubs probably fall right into the middle of the NL right now, but it doesn’t mean they can’t surprise us in 2023.

I mean, no more Andrelton Simmons, Jonathan Villar, Frank Schwindel and the plethora of outfielders used in 2022, so the Cubs have to be better in 2023 and we saw signs of that in the second half of 2022. Yeah, losing Willson Contreras’ offense is a hit to the offense, but the Cubs appear to have a great defensive middle with Dansby Swanson, Nico Hoerner and Cody Bellinger in center. Ian Happ is poised to have another solid year and Seiya Suzuki should too, in his second year in MLB, that will hopefully include a fully healthy season.

The pitching staff may not have an ace, but the depth is real, from the major leagues down through the lower levels of the minors. Quality and quantity, which the Cubs haven’t had in a while up and down their organization.

Plus, there are three prospects that can help turn the Cubs from pretenders to contenders in 2023. Here they are, starting with the guy I think can make the biggest impact.

Matt Mervis – 1B/DH

Before we get into the numbers, it’s awesome that Matt Mervis went from un-drafted free agent signing in 2020, to breakout prospect in 2022. Credit to Mervis for making adjustments in a short time span and to the Cubs for giving him a shot and guiding him through his journey in the minors the last few years.

As of Dec. 28, 2022, the Cubs haven’t signed someone else to either play first base or be a designated hitter in 2023. Right now, we can pencil in Patrick Wisdom getting some of the playing time at first, but even if the Cubs do sign a guy like Trey Mancini, Matt Mervis will probably get a good shot to win an Opening Day roster spot.

The 24-year-old slugged 36 home runs in 2022, posting a .984 OPS in 137 games. The left-handed hitter then recorded a .914 OPS with six more home runs playing in the Arizona Fall League. Imagine if the power does play against MLB pitching and Mervis is suddenly a real threat in the middle of the Cubs order, surrounded by Swanson, Happ and Suzuki? Yes, please!

Hayden Wesneski – Starting Pitcher

Right now the Cubs starting rotation looks something like this:

Marcus Stroman
Justin Steele
Jameson Taillon
Drew Smyly
Kyle Hendricks

Solid, to good, but maybe not great. Out of the five, Kyle Hendricks has the biggest question mark around him after missing a little more than half of the 2022 season with shoulder issues. There’s still no guarantee that Hendricks will be 100% healthy to begin the 2023 season and even if he is, we’re not really sure how good he will be. Hey, maybe the regression we saw in 2021 and 2022 was because of his bum shoulder, but the point remains that he’s not a lock for the rotation.

Plus, the way pitching staffs are being used now, teams need several pitchers to cover all the starts during an entire season. That’s where 25-year-old Hayden Wesneski enters the picture. The Cubs may want to ease him in by using Wesneski out of the bullpen, similar to Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson in 2021, but Wesneski has that *it* factor for me. The way Wesneski carries himself on the mound is awesome. I really do think he can make 25 starts for the Cubs in 2023 and make the rotation look even better than it does right now on paper.

In his short stint with the Cubs in 2022, Wesneski had a 2.18 ERA in 33 innings, striking out 33 and walking seven. Dude was a badass on the mound.

Brennen Davis – Outfielder

This is coming straight from the heart. I still remember seeing video of Brennen Davis when the Cubs drafted him out of high school in 2018, and thinking really? Then, he changed his swing and posted a .906 OPS in 2019 and after the shutdown year in 2020, Davis hit 19 home runs and had an .869 OPS, reaching Triple-A by the end of the 2021 season.

I want Davis to overcome these damn injuries so bad and I really do wish 2023 turns out to be what 2022 was supposed to be for either the number one or two prospect in the Cubs minor league system depending on what list you read. Adding another young hitter to the Cubs outfield mix would be amazing in 2023 and if that’s Davis it means he’s healthy and thriving in Iowa, meaning he’s proven to everyone that he deserves a chance to prove it in the big leagues.

So, Mervis, Wesneski, Davis, believe in one, two or all three?


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Dec 30, 2022 4:36 am

.500 is the stretch goal in ’23 for this club.

Dec 29, 2022 4:49 pm

I believe Pete Crow Armstrong would belong in the mix

Dec 29, 2022 4:48 pm


steve gibson
steve gibson
Dec 29, 2022 12:37 am

all three bring them up

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