Will Oscar Mercado Be The Cardinals Shortstop After Jhonny Peralta?
It’s been years since the St. Louis Cardinals developed a quality Major League shortstop. While guys like Brendan Ryan and Pete Kozma have been one dimensional players at short, their offensive skills forced the Cardinals to sign Jhonny Peralta to provide value on both sides of the ball. Having last drafted a shortstop in the first round in 2007, the Redbirds a gaping organizational hole to fill. Enter Oscar Mercado. St. Louis hopes Mercado is their shortstop of the future.
As a prep star out of Tampa, Mercado was known more for his glove than bat. A first round talent according to Bullpen Banter, only Phillies first rounder J.P. Crawford (Scouting Report) ranked higher among draft eligible prep middle infielders. However, struggles at various prospect showcases forced the youngster into the second round. Will Oscar Mercado‘s deficiencies with the bat derail his Major League Dreams?
Listed at six-foot-two and 175 pounds, the 19-year-old shortstop is long and lean. His legs are ahead of his body developmentally. Mercado’s calf muscles are well defined and his quads are sturdy. The fitness of his legs aid in his plus foot speed and agility at short. The prospect’s upper body has little definition. Wide shoulders allow for muscle building potential. Mercado’s frame could easily pack on fifteen to twenty pounds.
The Johnson City Cardinals shortstop has phenomenal defensive potential. With plus instincts, the Gaither High Alum anticipates balls better than more experienced infielders. He has a dynamic first step, regularly fielding the ball left of center, his momentum is always working towards first base. With elite range, Mercado fields balls others can’t. Challenged on a ball up the middle, Mercado glided to the ball and made the play routine. However, the speed of the game proved a challenge.
On a weak grounder, Mercado charged and gloved the ball but failed to set his feet to throw. A strong throw sailed over the leaping first baseman. Setting his feet, the shortstop easily retires the hitter. In fact, his plus arm retires most runners. Accuracy is an issue. His high error numbers will fall as he gets more comfortable with the pace of professional baseball.
Mercado’s bat is less refined than his defensive skills. However, the youngster has terrific bat control and above average bat speed. He connects with a high percentage of pitches he swings at. Mercado has an efficient load with limited hand movement. Locking the lead arm while pushing the barrel through the zone, the prospect has length in his swing. He’s out and around on many pitches. His swing lacks fluidity but quick hands and stellar hand/eye coordination make up for some deficiencies.
The youngster has decent power potential. When Mercado’s swing is able to lift a pitch, his swing generates significant back spin. In game action against Twins prospect Felix Jorge, Mercado connected with a hanging curve for a two-run home run.. The ball had extra legs departing Joe O’Brien Field in Elizabethton. Unfortunately, Mercado struggles barreling baseballs is his Achilles heel.
The shortstop’s glaring weakness offensively is his pitch recognition skills. Lunging forward on most pitches, Mercado is unable to decipher change of speeds or the spin of the breaking balls. However, the Cardinals prospect makes contact more often than not due to the noted bat control. However, it’s soft contact.
Oscar Mercado is one of the finer shortstop prospects in the lower minors. He’s extremely raw in all aspects of the game, but the potential package is impressive. Gold glove caliber defense with 10-to-15 home run potential at shortstop isn’t out of the question. Perceived risk is greater though as his bat may never make it out of Single-A. In several seasons scouting lower level prospects, only Juan Lagares has carved a Major League career with similar pitch recognition skills. The Cardinals will take it slow with the shortstop’s development. Likely to start 2015 in short season State College, Mercado is at least four seasons away from a MLB debut.
Tool Present Future Projected Role Gold Glove Shortstop Hitting Ability 20 35 Power 25 45 Speed 60 60 Fielding Ability 55 70 Arm 65 65
Owning Oscar Mercado
True shortstops have value because of their ability to stick at the position. With Mercado having size and the ability to stick, he has a distinct advantage over many other “shortstop” prospects who’ll eventually slide to second or third base. This makes the Cardinals prospect worth owning in deep dynasty leagues as a flyer just in case things come together. Thankfully, speed is also an asset as 21/28 stolen bases points to athleticism and the ability to incorporate speed into his game. If this happens, even a shortstop who hits .240 with 10 HR and 25+ stolen bases has considerable value. Oscar Mercado is worth a late stash, but can be added to watch lists for the time being with little risk of his being picked up by another owner.
21 Aug 2014 / Chris Blessing /
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