Tigers Prospect Scouting Report: Melvin Mercedes
By John Verburg
Mercedes is one of those prospects that you feel a little bit bad for. At one time, just two years ago heading into the 2010 season, Mercedes was gaining momentum in Tigers’ prospect ranks. Definitely a top 50 guy and rising. Mercedes had future closer written all over him. In 2010, pitching in West Michigan, Mercedes had to go under the knife for the dreaded, but now almost regularly scheduled, Tommy John surgery. 2011 was spent trying to recover from the surgery, and increasing his strength back to regular levels.
2012 is going to be an important year for Mercedes, and since this one time fast rising prospect is worth watching, I figured I would take a look at him for you.
For a look at Mercedes, follow through the jump……..
Mercedes is a right-handed pitcher that the Tigers signed out of El Seibo, Dominican Republic in 2008. At 21 years old, this big righty has been pitching stateside for a couple of years now with varying success. He started his career in the Dominican Summer League in 2008, posting a 3.19 ERA in 24 games for the DSL Tigers, striking out 33 batters in 36 innings. The Tigers liked what they saw enough to bring him stateside in 2009. Mercedes flourished in the Gulf Coast League, and in 26 appearances posted an ERA of 1.82 and saving 16 games. 2010 saw a promotion for Mercedes to West Michigan, where he struggled mightily with his command before giving way mid-summer to injury. For West Michigan, Mercedes only threw 19 innings before missing the rest of the season with Tommy John, and posted an ERA of over 5.00. Mercedes didn’t pitch again til the summer of 2011 when he surfaced with short-season Connecticut. Once again, Mercedes had some success, pitching in 21 games and posting a 2.67 ERA. Mercedes will be 21 years old all season in 2012, and Tigers fans can look forward to him pitching in West Michigan most likely.
Mercedes is essentially a two pitch pitcher, however, both of his offerings have the opportunity to be plus offerings. His fastball isn’t upper 90’s in terms of velocity, but he can reach back and get mid-90’s before Tommy John, and given the success rate of the surgery, should be able to do so again. Mercedes typically sits 91-93 with his fastball, but the pitch has tremendous movement and sink. The pitch also plays up because of a delivery that hides the ball well and gets on top of the hitter in a hurry. Mercedes does have issue commanding the pitch, and because of the movement, he might be better off just throwing it down the middle and letting it work for him. There is some hope that the injury might have had something to do with his poor command in West Michigan, and his BB numbers, while not good last year, were much better than the previous year.
Mercedes also owns a slider that shows as a plus pitch as well. His slider is thrown with good speed differential from his fastball, and will typically come in at the low 80mph range. His slider shows good two plane break, running down and away from right-handed hitters with some good bite. It works as a good strikeout pitch for him, though he needs to be able to throw the pitch for strikes more often.
Mercedes’ delivery did have some effort to it the last time I saw him, but hopefully the Tigers and staff are working to correct that. He isn’t an especially good athlete, and his body is a little soft, so conditioning and getting him to repeat his mechanics are concerns. From reports I have had, Mercedes is a real good kid, who wants to become a real good pitcher.
There isn’t much of a mystery with Mercedes. He is a make it or break it back end of the bullpen guy all the way for me. It isn’t because he is going to blow guys away and post outrageous strike out totals. Its because his fastball movement is absolutely phenomenal, and appears to be natural. His ground ball rates are tremendous, and couple that with the ability to generate a decent amount of strikeouts, you have a guy that can finish games.
For Mercedes, it is all going to come down to if he learns to pitch a little bit, and how to reign in his movement so he doesn’t have to work from behind the count. Oh, and recovering from that dreaded Tommy John fully.
*As usual, feel free to email me prospect questions at firstname.lastname@example.org