NL Notes: Cubs, Nationals, Marlins

Chicago Cubs veteran starter Wade Miley left yesterday’s game with left oblique tightness after fielding a bunt, according to Miley, who will be 36 next season, has had a frustrating, injury-filled season. The southpaw started the season on the 10-day injured list with left elbow inflammation and dealt with an additional left shoulder strain before being activated in early May. He would make three starts in May before being faced with injuries again, eventually being placed on the 60-day injured list with a left shoulder strain in June.

The Cubs’ acquisition of Miley via waivers from the Cincinnati Reds in the offseason was rather noteworthy, as the lefty came with a $10MM salary for the 2022 season and the Cubs were not considered contenders entering the 2022 season. Miley was coming off a rather productive four-year stretch, posting a 3.53 ERA in 425 1/3 innings and making 81 starts, albeit with a low 18.0% strikeout rate and an average 8.1% walk rate. However, Miley ranked highly in his ability to miss bats; he was in the 95th percentile for Average Exit Velocity, 83rd percentile for HardHit%, 75th percentile for Barrel %, and 77th percentile for Chase Rate in the 2021 season. With the Cubs out of contention for the 2022 playoffs and Miley a free agent at the end of the season, the Cubs may decide to end his season early and give starts to players fighting to make the starting rotation in the spring.

Elsewhere in the National League:

  • The Cubs have been searching for Anthony Rizzo’s heir, and they might have found it, reports Patrick Mooney of the Athletic. First baseman Matt Mervis has had a remarkable 2022 season. Beginning in High-A South Bend, the 24-year-old mashed pitchers to the tune of .350/.389/.650 with a 1.039 OPS in 100 at-bats before being promoted to Double-A Tennessee. Mervis picked up right where he left off, slashing .300/.370/.596/.966 with 14 home runs in 203 at-bats, earning a promotion to Triple-A Iowa and continuing to punish pitchers, posting a .297/.387/.595 slash line for a .982 OPS with another 14 home runs in 195 at-bats. On the heels of this dominant showing throughout the Minors, Cubs manager David Ross has been rather coy on the Cubs’ plans for Mervis, stating that “there’s no doubt that he’ll have a great opportunity in front of him moving forward”  and that Mervis is “definitely on the radar.”
  • As Washington Nationals’ rookie pitcher Josiah Gray wraps up his 2022 season, the Nationals are keeping a close eye on his innings count and have hinted at the possibility of shutting him down early, as reported by Coming to the Nationals from the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of the Trea Turner and Max Scherzer trade in 2021, Gray has shown flashes of brilliance and growing pains. Cumulatively, Gray has pitched to 5.17 ERA (27 starts) in 142 2/3 innings with an above-average 24.2% strikeout rate and a high 10.4% walk rate. However, these numbers do not explain the whole story, with Gray posting a 1.13 ERA in June (24 innings) and only allowing 13 hits and 3 earned runs. However, in July, Gray pitched to a 6.75 ERA (26 2/3 innings), giving up 30 hits and 20 earned runs. With the Nationals at the bottom of the NL East, they may turn their focus to the 2023 season and give Gray an extended offseason in preparation for his age-25 season.
  • In other Nationals news, southpaw MacKenzie Gore, who was acquired in the Juan Soto and Josh Bell blockbuster at the trade deadline, is working back from his left elbow inflammation, according to Gore has been on the injured list since July 26 and is currently continuing his rehabilitation in Triple-A Rochester. The Nationals are hoping that the 23-year-old will make at least one big league start with the team before the end of the season, and plan to have him throw 75-plus pitches in his next rehab start.
  • The Miami Marlins’ rebuild has yet to bear any fruit, and the team may be adjusting its roster for the 2023 season. Having traded Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, J.T. Realmuto, and Marcell Ozuna in the span of a few years, fans were aware that the team was entering a rebuild. However, the rebuild has yet to show any moderate signs of success. After making the postseason in 2020, the Marlins seem destined to finish the season below .500 for the twelfth time in the last thirteen seasons. An article by Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports that the Marlins view former first-rounder JJ Bleday as a “serviceable starter or platoon outfielder” and that “he does not project as a full-time center fielder.” Since a late July callup, Bleday has posted a measly .169/.285/.305/.590 slash line in his first MLB season with an inflated 28.5% strikeout percentage but with a high 13% walk rate. In a similar thought, the Marlins are “no longer counting on ” Lewin Díaz as their everyday first baseman because of his poor offensive performance. In his third season of Major League action, Díaz has posted a .163/.223/.281/.504 slash line in 148 plate appearances. Importantly, Díaz has seen an increase in his strikeout percentage and is fanning at a 30.4% clip and only walking at 6.8%.

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