Rethinking Cleveland Indians’ Oscar Mercado

Oscar Mercado - Photo credit Vince Schmidt, AZ 108-365 on Flickr, @AZ108365 on Twitter

Oscar Mercado, OF
Age: 24
2018 Highest Level: AAA
2018 Stats: 485 AB • .278/.349/.390 • 8 HR • 37 SB • 9.0 BB% • 15.9 K%
Shipped over from the Cardinals last July, Mercado was a converted SS who moved to CF before he arrived.  He came over with an inconsistent hit tool, but also plus speed, & developing pop. In my Cleveland Indians Top 50 Prospects article published in late January, I gave Oscar Mercado a fairly aggressive ranking compared to many other top prospect websites. I had him penciled in at #10 mostly due to a personal affinity for him as a player, but also aided by his proximity to the majors & the opportunity that exists in the Cleveland outfield. At the time I said “For dynasty league owners, a guy with a decent hit tool, the potential for double digit homers, and 25 steals should get you excited…especially considering his proximity to the majors, which could see him in Cleveland in 2019 if they still need outfield help.”


Fast forward a couple of months and Mercado is flourishing in Spring Training.  As of this writing, he boasts a .400 BA over 40  AB’s, with 3 HR, 1 SB, a .415 OBP, and a meaty 1.165 OPS.  7 of his 16 hits have gone for extra bases resulting in a .750 slugging percentage. Sure it is a small sample, but he has been far and away the Tribe’s best hitter this spring and has looked like a man possessed at the plate.

In an insightful piece by T.J. Zuppe at The Athletic, he details an off-season that saw Mercado determined to get the most out of his bat. He traveled to Cleveland twice in the winter for swing clinics with Indians staff to work on driving the ball more consistently. Using the latest technology to analyze exit velocity and launch angle, they set about making targeted changes to Mercado’s swing plane with that goal in mind. He took those adjustments, and the swing technology, back to Florida to continue working with his personal hitting coach. Mercado’s second off-season trip to Cleveland showed he had naturally incorporated the adjustments into his swing and they were indeed working from a results standpoint. With an invite to major league Spring Training, he would get a chance to see what he could do with his revamped swing in game situations.

While conclusions can’t be drawn based on 40 Spring Training AB’s, it hardly seems coincidental that he is putting up team leading stats in major league camp after working so hard to improve his offensive game in the winter. If the increased pop in Mercado’s bat is here to stay, we might be looking at an impact center fielder, both with the glove and the bat. Once thought to only have lower double digit pop, there appears to be a chance he can get that up near 20. From a plate discipline standpoint, Mercado has posted above average K-rates throughout his minor league career along with a league average walk rate. He has swiped at least 30 bags each of the last 4 seasons in the minors, though his success rate does leave a bit to be desired with 81 CS to his 196 steals across all levels. The plus wheels are there, though a bit more instruction and selectivity will be necessary to improve on those numbers.

We may now be looking at a player who can glove it in CF in an organization that has a need there, who has solid contact skills, 25+ steal speed, the potential for 15-20 homers, and a focus on getting his hit tool more consistent. I could see Mercado coming in around .275 with a BABIP that is a bit high but sustainable thanks to his wheels. I would now probably bump him up a few spots in my top 50 as well.

For 2019, the Indians have Leonys Martin and the speedy Greg Allen on the CF depth chart. Both are solid if unspectacular players, giving Mercado a chance to earn a call-up and AB’s if he keeps raking….if he doesn’t force the Indians’ hand and head north with the team. After all he has shown them he isn’t taking the opportunity in Cleveland lightly, his work ethic being praised by both the hitting coaches and Terry Francona.

I’ll leave you with a couple of his spring home runs, the first is a blast to dead center field off the batters eye:

This one is a scorching line drive Mercado pulled into the bullpen:

 

 

About John Stewart 7 Articles
John Stewart is a graphic & website designer, event promoter, and baseball enthusiast based in Louisville, Kentucky. He has been obsessed with minor league baseball since childhood, as the AAA Louisville Redbirds (now the Louisville Bats) were the only local team...which is still the case today. Now a season ticket holder, John enjoys watching top prospects as they come through town, as well as purchasing far too much cotton candy for his kids throughout the baseball season. Follow John on Twitter at @jonance

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