The Cubs have begun full-squad workouts in Mesa, which means we’re getting little snippets of action to whet our collective appetite. MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian captured video of a live BP faceoff Tuesday between Caleb Kilian and Matt Mervis that featured cleaner pitching mechanics against a patient approach and a plan to drive the ball the other way.
Kilian got Mervis to swing over the top of what looks like a curve in the first pitch we see, then Mash took two offerings that appeared to be outside and another that may have caught more of the plate. The fifth and final pitch of the at-bat was about thigh-high over the outer third and Mervis just got a little too far under it, lofting the ball to deep left-center (per Bastian) for what likely would have been a pop fly.
The first thing you’ll notice is that Kilian has smoothed out his motion quite a bit from last season, ideally making it more repeatable. After building a good bit of hype in the Arizona Fall League not long after being acquired by the Cubs, Kilian struggled in his first full season with the organization as a result of feeling out his new stuff. His velocity was up and he had incorporated a new knuckle-curve grip, so it’s almost like he had to re-learn how to pitch.
What impressed me about Mervis in this clip is that he was willing to spit on pitches he didn’t like without sacrificing his desire to drive the ball. He’s so strong that he doesn’t need to barrel it up to hit it a long way, and being patient will force pitchers to work in the zone more. That will lead to mistakes he can punish, just like he did last year.
It’s just a handful of pitches on a backfield in February, but it’ll have to do for now.