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Rays Top 50 Prospects: No. 28, Michael Mercado

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One of the few 2018 draft picks that made our top 30, this right-hander has a lot of potential and could move quickly up the ranks.

No.28, RHP Michael Mercado, 18 yrs old

Born: Apr 15th, 1999 in San Diego, CA

Height/Weight: 6’4” 160 lbs Bats/Throws: R/R

Signed: by the Rays after selecting him in the 2nd round of the 2017 draft for $2,132,400

Twitter handle: @Michael_Merc

Twitter profile statement: Professional Pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays”

Baseball America Rankings

  • Ranked as the 17th best GCL prospect by BA in 2017
  • Ranked as the 48th best draft prospect by BA for 2017 MLB draft

*did not make the BA top 10 Rays prospects but Bill Balew noted when asked in the chat “Mercado was very close. Very. In fact, in the various forms of compiling the list, he was on it at times.”

DRB Writers ranking

  • High: 23rd
  • Low: 50th

Michael Mercado: Abilities

  • Ability to throw 4 pitches for strikes
  • Quick arm and good spin
  • Curve seems to be preferred by scouts right now
  • Feel for circle change also noted
  • FB projected to increase in velocity as he adds weight/strength

Scouting grades ‘17 (Pipeline): FB: 55 | Curve: 55 | Slider: 45 | Change: 50 | Ctl: 50 | Overall: 45

  • Abilities notes: Two of his pitches (cutter and curve) are expected to grade as plus pitches, and the change shows promise to join them down the road. With command that allows him to spot all pitches effectively (so far), having two (and possibly 3) plus pitches makes his floor a high one and his ceiling a very intriguing one.

Joined the Rays by way of....

The draft where the Rays went well over slot to sign him. While the slotted amount was $1,714,500, the young righty landed $2,132,400, an indication of how much the Rays love and have faith in his potential. Between his signing and Brendan McKay’s, the Rays proved more aggressive than ever at the top of their draft in 2017.

Latest Transaction: assigned to GCL Rays June 26, 2017

Note - Only RHP Matt Sauer of the Yankees received a higher bonus in the 2nd rd than Mercado, receiving $2,497,500.

Facts, Honors, and Awards

  • Favorite MLB team, Detroit Tigers, and favorite player is Justin Velander
  • 2016 Palomar League Pitcher of the Year
  • Career HS stats: 154 IP, 2.09 ERA, 142 Ks
  • Committed to Stanford before signing with Rays, was advised by John Boggs and Associates
  • After being selected by the Rays, Mercado had this to say,

“I’m sure my advisers will get down to the negotiation part after the draft,” Mercado said. “I still have a decision to make — school or pro ball. Right now, I’m just trying to enjoy the moment.”

  • Bill Chastain wrote this about his arsenal,

Mercado’s fastball is typically in the 88-92 mph range, with some room for added velocity from his loose and projectable frame, though his value will likely stem more from command than premium velocity in the future. He throws a slider and a curve, with the latter a much better offering, buckling knees with sharp bite coming from a high three-quarters slot. He does a nice job of sprinkling in his changeup. He can throw strikes with all four pitches.

  • Ranked 15th among Keith Law’s Top 20 Rays prospects.

Stats

Michael Mercado 2017

GP 8
GP 8
GS 8
IP 21.1
W 0
L 0
Sv (SvO) 0 (0)
H 21
BB 4
SO 14
HR 1
AvgA 0.256
Whip 1.17
BAbip 0.299
LOB% 89.0%
GB% 39.4%
FB% 43.9%

Stats Notes: Mercado was limited to 3 IP maximum through his 8 professional starts and therefore rarely saw the same hitter twice. He also did not allow a walk in any of his last 4 outings (11.2 IP) but did allow 14 hits over that span.

Interesting Comparison: Rick Porcello

  • Porcello may have added some weight but when selected by the Tigers in 2007 he was tall (6’5”) and lean, just as Mercado is. And while Porcello had a few more MPH on the FB, his curve was as rated similarly and both were noted as needing more work on the change up.
  • Porcello did not throw his drafted year and was so advanced that he began his pro career in HiA. It seems doubtful that Mercado will be on the same route. With the Rays being more cautious than most in bringing pitchers along, it’s more likely he walks through the system.
  • They may have different ceilings and Porcello may have had a sharper slider to work with, but if Mercado gets the most out of his potential he’ll take a good run at matching some of Porcello’s results.

Notes for 2018 and beyond

Over the 2015 and 2016 drafts, some could argue that the Rays targeted lower ceiling players in order to target depth of talents instead, hoping to minimize risk. Whether true or not, we know there are no guarantees in any draft. But when we heard Brendan McKay’s name called as their selection 4th overall, I was elated and thought “finally, they’re going after ceiling!”. But, it wasn’t until Michael Mercado was selected 40th overall that it became a pattern, and a very encouraging one at that.

Mercado is the kind of prospect that teams love because his ceiling is so high that it limits overall risk (aside from the inherent risks of being a pitcher). Armed with a smooth delivery and advanced command for his age, pitching coaches should be able to add significant value to his pitches in short time frame (relatively speaking). And that may be what convinced the Rays to invest heavily in him despite a commitment to Stanford.

Nonetheless, as you can see from our split rankings (one very much doubting in him, but the remainder having him in their Top 30), he has a lot of work to do. When the Rays selected Blake Snell out of HS, he worked a similar number of innings in the GCL (26.1) and went through the Appy League for one season before getting to A ball. The difference between the two? Well, two of them really: different front office in charge, and Snell had command issues that Mercado may not have.

With these things in mind, there’s a possibility that Mercado heads to either the Appy League or Hudson Valley in 2018, with Bowling Green as the likely ending spot if he shines throughout. Many seem to be overlooking Mercado as a big part of the Rays future, but that may be a mistake. He has the potential have the same kind of impact as top pitching prospects like Snell, and may be able to get there more quickly.

Michael Mercado: Spotlight Videos

Recap and links of previously listed DRB Top 50 Rays Prospects

*Note, these rankings are going to be adjusted shortly as we add prospects acquired in trade