Mercado a plug and play performer

EUGENE, OR: A utility player is a player who can man several different positions and do it effectively. A jack of all trades. It's not that a utility player isn't good enough to stick with one position, it's that they're talented enough to cover multiple. Angel Mercado is a utility player.

He has the size to play first base, the agility to man third, and the speed to roam the outfield. And with a big stick that has clubbed a team-leading six home runs, he's a plug and play every single night.

Angel Mercado played four years of college ball, dividing his time between Manatee Community College in Florida, Cumberland College, and Bethune-Cookman – and at all three schools he played at a different spot.

"My first year in college I played catcher and third base, and two of our outfielders got hurt. They both had surgery so they moved me to centerfield. They never came back so I played my whole freshman and sophomore year," Mercado said.

Since arriving in Eugene after a spring season stint with Fort Wayne and a 2007 season in Arizona, he has added first base to his repertoire.

"It's been pretty good. I started in spring training when they started practicing with me. You always have to be aggressive. You have to always be on your game. Because you have to get a lot of balls there, so it's different from playing in the outfield."

Mercado has been rotating between first and third base for much of the season, but he has constantly remained in the lineup, which has helped him to find a rhythm at the plate and drastically improve on all his offensive numbers from Fort Wayne.

"It's way easier to make adjustments when you are playing every day," he said. "When you're not playing every day, you can try to make the adjustments in BP, but it's hard to translate over to the game. You want to adjust but really you're just trying to get ahead so you can be in the lineup the next day."

Mercado has matched or exceeded his Fort Wayne numbers in almost every category in fewer games. His batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage have risen substantially during this season with the Ems and can be attributed to the comfort of knowing that his spot in the lineup is never in jeopardy.

"Over here, I'm playing every day so it doesn't matter if you go 0-for-4 or 0-for-5 because you know you're going to play in the next game, and you can do better by making the adjustments in the next games."

The Ems lead the Northwest League in homers and Mercado is the club home run leader, but you shouldn't call him a power hitter. He is near the top of the team in total bases and slugging percentage, but Mercado only steps into the box hoping to put the ball in play – and that he does often.

"I used to hit a lot of home runs, but I'm not considering myself a power hitter, I'm just trying to hit the ball and make contact. If it goes out, then that's good."

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