TCN 2016 Cards Prospect #32: Oscar Mercado

The former second-rounder led the Cardinals system in stolen bases in 2015, but needs to reach base more often.

The Cardinal Nation/ Player Profile

School: Gaither High School, Tampa, Florida

2015 rank Pos. DOB Ht. Wt. Bat Thw Signed Round
23 SS 12,16,94 6-1 175 R R 2013 2nd

Selected 2015 stats

Peo 0.254 0.282 472 70 120 23 4 44 23 61 50 0.299 0.297 0.341 0.638

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (30): The community has been pretty steady in regards to the ranking of the 2013 second round draft pick, Oscar Mercado. Mercado finished at #29 in 2014, #24 in 2015, and filled out the top 30 in this year’s community vote at #30. Last year, DidiDada believed Mercado to be the highest upside position player left at the point in which he received support, due to his excellent glove and speed.

The community felt pretty much the same this year despite BobReed’s words of peril, believing Mercado is an odd case, since he is a glove-first shortstop with an unreliable glove. He did caveat the statement with the belief that error totals can be quite misleading in the minor leagues. - Jeremy Byrd

Derek Shore (33): Widely known for his defensive ability at shortstop, Mercado was one of three Cardinals stolen base projects coming into this year. He ran wild in 2015, leading not only the Midwest League -- but the Cardinals entire system with 50 successful stolen bases.

While the Cardinals former 2nd round pick continues to refine his overall game, I reached out to former Baseball Prospectus prospect team member and current 2080ball player evaluator Mauricio Rubio to give me his thoughts on Mercado. Rubio covered the Midwest League for Baseball Prospectus.

“Offensively, Mercado isn't an enticing prospect. There's little feel for hitting and didn't really show me a game plan at the plate,” said Rubio via email. ”Defensively Mercado has things to work out, though but he showed the ingredients to be a solid defender.”

In further detail, Rubio said Mercado has a tall frame with room for projection, his body should stay and hold up at shortstop. He said Mercado has average bat speed and has a tendency to get off balance on changeups and breaking pitches while he doesn’t involve much lower half and doesn’t project for much power, even with maturity to his frame.

In the field, the player evaluator said at present Mercado’s hands are inconsistent, but he showed an ability to make rangy plays up the middle with above average arm and accuracy.

Mercado remains raw offensively, with an aggressive approach at the plate (.297 on-base percentage). Noteworthy, but not to be blown out of proportion, is his high error total at shortstop; he committed 42 errors in 106 games at the position. As Rubio noted as well as other scouting reports, the view of his defense is less than glowing compared to his pre-draft outlook.

However, if Mercado can continue to cut down on his strikeouts and find a way to reach base more often, with the impact of his legs, he can turns singles and walks into doubles and triples. That would then provide more intrigue than his current offensive profile, in my opinion.

Mercado's short-term ascent will be interesting for many reasons going into 2016: a) He has yet to master the Midwest League, b) He has yet to be a competent hitter in the Midwest League and c) The Florida State League suppresses offense, but Mercado could thrive in those gaps thanks to his legs.

A bold prediction, but Mercado opens 2016 with High-A Palm Beach.

Brian Walton (32): All three of the voters are relatively close in our view of where Mercado stands after his first year in full-season ball and over three professional seasons. At this point, only a small amount of the aura that comes with having been a second-round draft pick worth of a $1.5 million signing bonus remains.

The facts are that instead of surging, Mercado continues to slowly slip in our annual overall Cardinals top 40 rankings – from 22 in 2014 to 23 last season and now 32. It is unclear what is ahead that will reverse that trend as others at the position improve.

Mercado is slowly melding into the Cardinals’ shortstop pack. Though Juan Herrera is at risk of falling out of our top 40 due to injury in 2015, currently Mercado is at best the fourth-ranked shortstop in the system after Allen Cordoba, Edmundo Sosa and Aledmys Diaz. There are also three second basemen ahead in our ranking countdown.

On the subject of plate aggressiveness, Mercado’s numbers are interesting. On the positive side, he has cut his strikeout rate almost in half since 2013, down to 11.9 percent for 2015. However, during the same time, his walk rate also dropped in half and is down to just 4.5 percent, or about just one per week over the course of the season. It seems unlikely any team could sustain a top of the order hitter with a career on-base mark under .300.

This fall, during his third fall instructional league camp, I asked Mercado about his aggressiveness, which seems to be working against him at times.

“I feel like I definitely could have taken a lot more walks this year, but I wasn’t a guy who was not afraid to swing,” Mercado said. “If I see a pitch over the plate, I am definitely going to attack it. I am not a very passive hitter.”

The shortstop sees a higher on-base percentage as a vehicle to create opportunity for more steals.

“I think when it comes to that sense that maybe 50 stolen bases could have gone even higher if I would have taken a few more walks and maybe seen a few more pitches,” he said. “I used to lead off sometimes, switch off with Sef (Darren Seferina). I think it is just something that comes as you know the strike zone better, the more experienced hitter you become, the better you get at it.”

Looking ahead to 2016, I don’t think it is bold at all to suggest Mercado could move up to Palm Beach after spending the entire 2015 season at Peoria. Sure, repeating the Midwest League would be safest, but these moves are not made in a vacuum. The 19-year-old Sosa is coming up right behind him and looks to be ready for the same jump from Johnson City that Mercado made last season. Sosa needs to play every day, too.

It has been said already, but I agree with the sentiment. Unless Mercado can hit and get on base at a greater rate, his defensive potential and speed may not be enough to propel him to the Majors.

Our 2016 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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