Duke in the MLB: Stroman shines on Opening Day, Mervis starts year in Triple-A

Marcus Stroman opened the year for the Cubs with six scoreless innings.
Marcus Stroman opened the year for the Cubs with six scoreless innings.

 With spring comes the beginning of the Major League Baseball season. Duke alumnus Marcus Stroman led the way for the Chicago Cubs as their opening-day starter, while other former Blue Devils are battling in the minors. The Blue Zone takes a look at a few alumni making an impact in the pros:

Marcus Stroman, P, Chicago Cubs

Former Duke ace Marcus Stroman is entering the second year of a three-year, $71 million contract with the Chicago Cubs. Stroman was tabbed the Opening Day starter for Chicago, and he performed admirably in this role. In Thursday’s matchup against the Milwaukee Brewers, Stroman mowed through the lineup, posting six scoreless innings. The former first-round pick had his full arsenal of pitches on display in front of the home crowd at Wrigley Field, as he racked up eight strikeouts while only issuing three walks. Milwaukee could only manage three hits in the first six innings, with Stroman’s performance on the mound propelling Chicago to a 4-0 victory to open the season. 

The Cubs will continue to rely on Stroman to be their top dog this season, a tall task for the 31-year-old. If the right-hander can build on his momentum from opening day, Chicago will have a chance to compete for a playoff spot in a relatively weak NL Central. 

Matt Mervis, 1B, Iowa Cubs (Chicago Cubs' Triple-A affiliate)

Matt Mervis, the Cubs' No. 7 prospect according to MLB.com, is coming off an absolute monster year in the minor leagues. After beginning the season with Chicago’s High-A affiliate in South Bend, the former Duke two-way standout slugged his way through the ranks, ending the year up in Triple-A playing for the Iowa Cubs while earning the Cubs’ Minor League Player of the Year award. Mervis’s immense power potential was on display at every stop last year, as he clubbed 36 homers to go along with 119 RBIs, numbers that were among the best in the minor league ranks last season. The 24-year-old also hit for contact, batting .309 with a .984 OPS for the season. 

Mervis was on the Cubs spring training roster this year, but struggled slightly in his time there, batting just .179 in his 13 games played. He also struck out 11 times in his 28 at-bats, likely a sign of offseason rust. As a result of his poor spring, Mervis was optioned down to Triple-A to start the year. Luckily for the slugger, he has picked up right where he left off in Iowa. In his two games so far this season, Mervis has already posted his first home run, and boasts a .500 on-base percentage. It seems like it is only a matter of time until the former undrafted Blue Devil makes his way onto the major league roster, joining Stroman at Wrigley Field. 


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