Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Mercedes was not the classic high profile signing out of the Dominican Republic. The Tigers inked him almost a year after he was eligible to sign, just before the start of the 2008 DSL season.
Mercedes jumped right into the fray and posted a 3.19 ERA in 24 relief appearances that summer, striking out nearly a batter per inning while also posting a walk rate approaching six per nine innings.
Brought Stateside for the 2009 season Mercedes dominated the GCL out of the bullpen, picking up 16 saves and sporting a 1.82 ERA in 26 games. He again showed strong strikeout rates and troubling walk rates in 2009.
Though he started the year with West Michigan in 2010, Mercedes was clearly not the same pitcher. His velocity fluctuated and his control was worse than it had ever been. In the end, Mercedes hit the disabled list with arm trouble and ultimately went under the knife for elbow reconstruction surgery.
He came back in 2011 and pitched well for Connecticut, notching three saves in 21 games and finishing with a 2.67 ERA. While he again struggled with control, he managed the best walk rate (4.3/9) of his career but also the worst strikeout rate (5.6/9) of his career.
Mercedes doesn't look pretty on the field, both in physical appearance and in the way he gets the job done. He is a portly guy with thin legs and a big torso. His heft can hinder his ability to repeat his mechanics at times but he was showing strides in 2011.
He has some effort in his delivery that both gives him some deception and hinders his ability to throw strikes. The effort results in a fastball that sits around 92-94 mph and can touch higher on occasion. He typically shows good natural sink on his fastball and it can be deadly when run in on the hands of right-handed hitters.
Mercedes also throws a slider that will flash as an above-average pitch with tight spin and good depth. He has a tendency to get around the ball too much, flattening his slider out and leaving it spinning in the middle of the plate.
Because of his problems throwing strikes, Mercedes is forced to become predictable on the mound. He still needs to learn the art of pitch sequencing and when it is appropriate to try and just blow a hitter away. His inability to throw strikes – let alone command within the zone – has earned him a reputation as a bit of a "wild pony" as one member of the organization has said.
Mercedes has the "I couldn't care less" attitude to pitch in the late innings without becoming rattled. He is a care free kid that loves the game and wants badly to pitch in the Major Leagues.
If he can throw more strikes, Mercedes has the potential to be a setup reliever that gets ground balls and notches a few strikeouts.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP WHIP SS-A
Mercedes missed the second half of 2010 after undergoing Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right elbow. He came back quickly and was on the mound in game action during spring training 2011. The Tigers were cautious with him last year and he rarely pitched more than two times per week. Expect the reigns to come off a bit in 2012.
Mercedes has experienced three brief trials in West Michigan at this point, one cut short due to injury and the other two only as a late season call-up. The club expects him to leave camp this spring with a job in the Whitecaps bullpen and one source I spoke with wouldn't rule out the possibility of him earning a job in Lakeland.
Mercedes is still likely at least two to three years from approaching a potential big league call-up and his command/control will have to have improved dramatically for that day to ever come.
Though he has the raw stuff and the mentality to pitch in the late innings in the big leagues, the inability to make hitters swing at his stuff by throwing it in and around the strike zone could ultimately hold him back.
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