School: Gaither High School, Tampa, Florida
Selected 2014 stats
Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)
Message board community (24): Oscar Mercado is a slick-fielding shortstop that jumped into the fray with support from bccran during vote #21. SoonerinNC believes Mercado’s lights-out performance in the Appalachian League playoff run supports a high place on the prospect vote. UncleDenny noted Mercado’s excellent stolen base numbers of 26 steals in 60 regular season games and seven more during the playoffs. DidiDada believes that Mercado is one of the highest upside position players in the organization due to his excellent glove work and speed. - Jeremy Byrd
Derek Shore: At 23, Mercado is one spot down from his TCN ranking last winter. The young second rounder was challenged by the better pitching in the Appalachian League compared to the previous season when he debuted with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals.
The 19-year old batted just .224 in 2014, but led the rookie-level league with 26 steals in 33 attempts over 60 regular season games. Even though he had a hard time finding any type of success at the plate during the regular season, Mercado went 10-for-25, .400, with five runs knocked in during his club’s successful quest for the Appalachian League title.
Listed at 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, the gifted defensive wizard perhaps could be the best of any in the Cardinals organization. He is long and lean with a ton of room to put on physical strength that would hopefully help him add a bit of pop to his less refined bat. Evaluators say Mercado has no trouble with bat-to-ball skills or being able to make contact, but it is soft contact due to his pitch recognition that is his biggest deficiency.
In Mercado, you just have to be optimistic. He is still extremely raw in pretty much all the aspects of his game, but his potential overall package is impressive and is what convinced the Cardinals to dish out $1.5 million on him. His development will be taken at a slower pace, probably going level by level given his youth and rawness, so he will likely start at State College in 2015.
Brian Walton (22): On one hand, it is relatively easy to rank a young player like Mercado. Simply because of his draft position and bonus received, he is going to land in this top 40 initially. Even though he now has two partial seasons under his belt, they were both in rookie-level ball where it is hardest to get a read on a player’s possible big-league future. Further, Mercado is still a teenager, with much to learn.
As noted above, his major offensive success in 2014 was achieved via his legs. Not only did Mercado top his league in steals, he was third in the entire Cardinals system and the clear leader among short-season players. Mercado improved as the summer progressed, swiping 11 in August alone before his post-season heroics.
During instructional league camp this fall, I asked Mercado where his ramp up in performance as August turned into September came from.
“I guess something just clicked for me in the last week or so and I took it into the playoffs,” he said. “I am glad that I was able to be the best player that I could possibly be to help my team out.”
Once on first, taking the extra base and getting into scoring position helped his Johnson City championship team score many important runs during 2014. It is an area from which Mercado takes particular pride.
“It is one of the key parts of my game and I feel I can do it really well,” he stated. “I feel like it helps my team out a lot. If it gives my team the best chance to win, I am going to do it as much as possible.”
While the 175-pounder clearly has room and motivation to put on more muscle, he has to ensure he maintains one of his biggest strengths, his agility. His calling card is clearly his defense and he already has the physical characteristics to be successful there.
We will just need to continue to monitor his progress with the bat.
Our 2015 top 40 series continues: To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 40 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of the latter are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation.
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