Last season, Melvin Mercedes burst onto the professional baseball scene with a big pro debut season for the AZL A's. The middle infielder hit .381 with a .440 OBP in 105 at-bats (31 games) for the A's Rookie League squad. The Bronx native walked 10 times against 15 strike-outs and he impressed with the glove.
Mercedes, a switch-hitter, spent the first half of the 2013 season at extended spring training in Arizona. He finally got an opportunity to leave the desert at the start of the short-season, when he was sent to Vermont. He would spend the entire 2013 regular season with the Lake Monsters, although he received a promotion to Low-A Beloit for the second round of the Snappers' post-season run.
Like many hitters in the New York-Penn League, Mercedes struggled to match his Arizona Rookie League numbers this season. In 145 at-bats with Vermont, Mercedes hit .228/.331/.248. Mercedes struggled to hit for power (only three extra-base hits), but he walked 21 times. He hit .252/.346/.270 as a left-handed hitter, but hit only .152/.275/.182 as a right-handed batter.
Mercedes, 21, was raised in the Bronx, but he went south for college after a distinguished high school career for Clinton HS. He attended the College of Central Florida for one season before being selected in the 16th round of the 2012 draft by the Oakland A's. He was a second-team all-FCSAA selection during his one season in college.
Donald Moore spoke with Mercedes during the Lake Monsters' final roadtrip.
Donald Moore: Hi, Melvin, how is everything going for you this season?
Melvin Mercedes: Physically wise, I'm all good. Just trying to stay healthy because the season is winding down, and a couple of our guys are banged up, so trying to stay strong. Right now we are trying to do everything we could to get some wins, you know.
DM: What are your goals for this year?
MM: For this season, my goals are pretty high. To be honest with you, I'm not having a great year right now, so I'm just fighting through. Just trying to fight through and try to finish strong.
DM: What is your greatest strength as a ball player?
MM: I say my defense. My defense is my best part of me playing baseball.
DM: What would you like to improve on?
MM: I would like to improve on my hitting, of course. I'd like to be one of the best hitters out here and just steal a lot of bases. Trying to work on my stealing and picking up the pitcher's timing and stuff, trying to get better at that.
DM: What do you like best about being a professional baseball player?
MM: The best thing is all we do is eat, sleep and wake up to. You don't have to worry about going to school or nothing. That's the best thing. I just like playing baseball. You wake up, practice and play a game everyday.
DM: Do you have any pregame routines?
MM: Not really. We just listen to some music, go out, hit BP and come back in and listen to music before the game and that's about it.
DM: Favorite thing to do off the field?
MM: I don't know, just wander around and do whatever. I just go with the flow. Whatever anybody's doing, I'm doing.
DM: Favorite team growing up?
DM: If there is one person who taught you most about baseball, who would that be?
MM: That would be Johnny Arias, a coach that I played for since I was 10 years old. I still go to him now. He's pretty cool and I learned a lot of stuff from him.
DM: Craziest thing you've ever seen on a baseball diamond?
MM: A line drive back at the pitcher, that's about it.
DM: Where do you see yourself five years from now?
MM: In five years I'm hopefully seeing myself in the big leagues. That's my goal and that's why I'm here trying to make it to the big leagues.
DM: Thank you Melvin for your time.
MM: Thank you.