With the MLB shortening its draft to only five rounds this year, many players who would've otherwise been guaranteed to get drafted didn't get to see their names called Wednesday or Thursday.
But that doesn't mean they won't get the opportunity to play professionally.
First-baseman and pitcher Matt Mervis signed with the Chicago Cubs as an undrafted free agent Sunday, the first day of the undrafted free agency signing period.
Mervis has improved throughout his four years in Durham, but what really marked his progression was the 2019 summer, when he dominated in the Cape Cod League. He pitched well but the real attention grabber was his .313 batting average and 31 RBIs.
The hot streak continued into the 2020 collegiate season, as the senior showed more power and better plate discipline than ever before. His three home runs in 16 games were half as many as his 56-game total a year ago and he was walking more times than he struck out, two signs of an extremely locked in hitter.
If Mervis is unable to put his hitting together as a professional, he may still have pitching to fall back on. While there are more question marks surrounding his pitching compared to his bat, it is not outside the realm of possibilities for the Cubs to opt to use the Maryland native out of the bullpen.
Mervis had success pitching throughout college, but he has not thrown a substantial amount of innings since 2018. His fastball was sitting in the low 90s then, a speed that is too low to be considered a legitimate contender to be a major league reliever. On top of that, his minimal pitching workload indicates that his arm will require a significant amount of conditioning before it can handle a typical workload even in the minor leagues.
Two days later, Blue Devil closer Thomas Girard joined Mervis as a professional, signing with the Baltimore Orioles. Girard entered this past season as a preseason All-American after notching nine saves, 61 strikeouts and a 2.33 ERA in 46.1 innings of work in 2019. The Connecticut native didn't miss a beat in 2020, posting four saves, 19 strikeouts and a 2.31 ERA in 11.2 innings before the campaign was cut short.
Girard doesn't have great velocity on his fastball, hovering in the low 90s, but an impressive slider has helped him become one of the ACC's top relievers over the last couple of years. He becomes the second Duke junior to either get drafted or sign with an MLB team this year along with roommate and fellow Pratt School of Engineering classmate Bryce Jarvis.
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