Name: Miguel Mercedes
Height/Weight: 6’4’’, 255
How Acquired: Signed as an amateur free agent in February 2013.
Miguel Mercedes has always been able to put on a power show during batting practice, but in 2016, he brought that power into games for the first time. Will he be able to improve his pitch recognition to take that next step in his development?
http://www.scout.com/mlb/athletics/story/470233-oakland-a-s-top-50-prosp... Mercedes was known to only a handful outside of the Oakland A’s organization going into this season. A native of the Dominican Republic, Mercedes signed with Oakland before the 2013 season and spent just that year in the Dominican Summer League before coming Stateside. Mercedes’ first two seasons with a US affiliate were non-descript. He hit .221 with a 588 OPS for the AZL A’s in 2014 and followed that up with a .216 average and a 653 OPS in 2015.
Mercedes always impressed with his power in batting practice and, after a strong showing during extended spring training, he finally received an opportunity in a non-complex league in 2016. At the start of short-season, he was assigned to the Vermont Lake Monsters. The assignment wasn’t expected to last the entire season, as the A’s often send younger players from their Dominican complex to Vermont for the first few weeks of that season before their draft picks sign. However, Mercedes got off to a red-hot start and never gave the A’s a reason to send him back to Arizona.
Over the first two weeks of the New York-Penn League season, there was no hotter hitter than Mercedes, who batted .370 with two homers and 11 RBI. Teams started pitching Mercedes more carefully in July and his average fell to .258 for the month, but he put on a power show with six homeruns. He slumped for the first half of August, but had a solid final few weeks of the season to finish the year with a league-leading 12 homeruns and a .258/.324/.448 line in 67 games.
Miguel Mercedes Stats
The 12 homeruns were significant, as they not only led the league but also tied a Lake Monsters’ franchise high for a single season. Mercedes also became the first A’s prospect to reach double-digits in homeruns with the Lake Monsters and only the fifth prospect in Vermont history to reach that plateau. Mercedes well out-stripped the New York-Penn League average slashline of .243/.318/.337 for the season. In addition to leading the league in homers, Mercedes finished fourth in RBI (43), second in total bases (111) and 10th in OPS (771).
Mercedes also finished sixth in the league in strike-outs (74), and strike-outs were an issue for the big right-handed hitter when he slumped in early August. However, Mercedes actually cut his strike-out rate from 36.3% in 2015 to 27% in 2016. Obviously, that strike-out rate needs to come down even more for Mercedes to be effective in the upper-levels, but Oakland A’s Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman says that Mercedes made marked improvements with his pitch recognition in 2016.
“He is beginning to narrow his strike-zone and, with that, he has been able to draw more walks and get better pitches to hit,” Lieppman said. “Before he would just have a big swing, just let it fly. Now he has purpose, better selectivity and plate discipline.”
Oakland A’s Assistant General Manager Billy Owens says that Mercedes’ approach at the plate is still a work-in-progress, but that the power numbers aren’t something that can be ignored.
“He has light-tower raw power. There are only a handful of guys for the Lake Monsters’ franchise who have ever hit double-figure homeruns in a season. Four or five guys ever. Pretty good list, most of those guys have played at a much higher level,” Owens said. “That’s definitely encouraging. He’ll have to tighten his approach as he goes up to higher levels, but he has had a nice breakout this year with the homeruns. He is a threat at the plate and he’s definitely exciting.”
Mercedes participated in the A’s fall Instructional League and A’s Triple-A hitting coach Eric Martins had an opportunity to work with Mercedes during the camp. He was impressed with how Mercedes used the whole field, but noted that Mercedes is still learning how to take changes he makes in the batting cage into games.
“He’s a guy who can hit. He’s got power, but he’s not afraid to use the whole field. He’ll take a ball to right field, he’ll drive the ball to right center field, he’ll put a charge into a ball and go up over the trees in leftfield,” Martins said. “He’s an interesting guy for me. I really like what he is capable of doing. He’s still young and you see that when he works on certain things throughout the day and in batting practice and once the game starts, he goes back to the big old leg kick and tries to start lifting. That’s just a matter of being young and not yet understanding to take what you are working on and, since the Instructional League is there for you to try new things and go for it and not worry about the results that much. But he’s very interesting to me. I like him.”
Mercedes was originally signed as a third baseman, but at 6’4’’, 255, he is likely to be too big to play that position longterm. He split his time between first and third in 2015, but in 2016, he was at first base for 57 games and third base just for five games. Mercedes isn’t fast, but he has some quickness in his feet and a strong throwing arm. He still needs some polish defensively at first base, but he has a chance to be at least an average defensive first baseman as he develops.
As a hitter, Mercedes did a better job being patient and looking for his pitch to hit this season, but he is still working on a more effective two-strike approach. He hit very well against left-handed pitchers (865 OPS) last season, but held his own versus righties (736 OPS). All but two of his homeruns went out to left or left-center field, but he had nearly double as many hits to center field and right field combined than he did to left field.
Mercedes turned 21 at the end of the 2016 regular season, so he will be on the younger side for Low-A if he makes the jump there at the start of next year. He has the potential to be one of the better power prospects in the A’s system. He is still raw, but if he can narrow his pitch selection, he could shoot up the prospect ranks next season.