Listed at 6'3" and a generous 250 pounds, right-handed reliever Melvin Mercedes is undoubtedly a big boy. Taking full advantage of a late season call-up, Mercedes flourished in his high-pressure late-inning relief role with Lakeland during the playoffs last season. Returning to Lakeland for his first full-season as the Flying Tigers' closer, Mercedes has picked up right where he left off, notching two wins and three saves, tossing 13 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run.
Last season, Mercedes worked almost exclusively with a low 90s fastball that occasionally scrapped the mid-90s. Mercedes' fastball has noticeably gained a bump in velocity this season though; now sitting regularly in the mid-90s and touching as high as 98 mph. The offering still features wicked late life that can best be described as a "bowling ball" because of its heavy, natural sink.
Mercedes also features a slider that he's utilizing more often this season. As our own Mark Anderson has stated before, the high-80s pitch features "tight spin and decent depth", occasionally living up to its "above-average potential." Having also seen Mercedes pitch last season, an AL scout recently described the pitch as a "much improved offering with solid two-plane break," and "potential to be a put away pitch."
When asked about Mercedes, A NL scout praised his "[Jose] Valverde-esque action and presence on the mound." To expand, off the mound, Melvin is a good teammate and a clown, much like his fellow countryman Valverde.
Mercedes is definitely a bulldog on the mound. He routinely pounds the strike zone to put batters in unfavorable counts. He is not afraid to pitch inside to both left and right-handed hitters. Opposing batters routinely struggle to get the barrel of the bat on the ball, regularly generating weak contact and a solid amount of ground balls. Mercedes also does a great job keeping the ball in the yard, with just four home runs yielded in 197 1/3 pro-innings.
Despite not being able to produce the prototypical strikeout ratio of a late-inning reliever (with a K/9 rate of 4.05), a NL scout praised Mercedes, labeling him with "realistic upside as a solid closer." That same scout further stated that "Mercedes is on the 40-man roster for a reason. Don't expect to see him in Lakeland for very long."
It doesn't take very much time around Mercedes to understand that he wants to be a big league pitcher; he's very open that it's a dream of his. Melvin Mercedes' attitude, current abilities and #want could easily make his dream a reality.
James Chipman is the Lakeland Correspondent for TigsTown. Be sure to follow him on twitter @JAYRC_TigsTown.