Image:Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
2021 age: 26
Bats: Right; Throws: Right
Contract: Pre-Arb 2
2020 stats: .128/.174/.174, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 3 SB, -11 wRC+, 93 PAs
2020 in review: Mercado got off to a bad start in 2020 when the season re-started in July and never recovered. He went to the Alternate Training Site for a while and that didn’t seem to help him regain his swing or any confidence. He got mixed playing time even when he returned, seemingly playing a lot against left handed pitching and not always in centerfield with Delino DeShields Jr. around. He wasn’t able to follow up on his solid rookie season. Mercado said he had a hard time mentally recovering from his bad start and worrying about his career. It’s fair to throw his season out given all that, and honestly, almost anyone for that matter. Mercado isn’t as bad as he played in 2020.
Offensive impact: In 2020, Mercado’s issues stemmed from chasing and swinging and missing. He went from striking out 17.4% of the time in 2019 to 29% in 2021. There isn’t much he did well offensively last year. Outside of his struggles in 2020, from 2019 we know Mercado can run well (15 steals in 115 games in 2019), and he slashed .269/.318/.443 with 15 homers and 25 doubles. The power was surprising for Mercado, but not the speed. He could be a 20/20 threat if he makes enough contact. Where Mercado struggles offensively is his approach. Things spiraled out of control with his approach in 2020, but his walk rate remained unchanged. He still only walked a little over 5%, which is why his on-base percentage was below .320 in 2019. If he could bump his walk rate up to 7% or 8% he could boost in OBP and OPS overall. In order to take advantage of his speed, it would be good for him to get on base more and it would make it easier to install him at the top of the order, or hit ninth as a second leadoff hitter for the top of the order.
Defensive impact: While his defensive metrics slipped some in 2020, Mercado still graded out as a good defensive outfielder. In 2019 in 3/4 of a season he came in at 6 Outs Above Average (OAA) according to Baseball Savant’s defensive metrics. He was at +2 in 2020. He had a 29.5 f/s score in Baseball Savant’s Sprint Speed in 2019, which was in the top 2% in baseball. In 2020 it was 28.1 in the 82nd percentile, so still good but a step back. Mercado has the skills to be a good defensive centerfielder long term.
Beyond the stats: As referenced before, Mercado’s issues in 2020 were a result of his approach and chasing pitches. He swung at pitches that weren’t strikes in 2020 almost as much as he did in 2019 (30% and 31%) however, his contact on those pitches dropped from 50.8% to 36.7%. His approach could be improved by swinging at less pitches out of the zone, but he made significantly less contact on pitches out of the zone in 2020, which led to an increase in strikeouts. If he cleans that up a little there’s no reason he can’t return to at least his 2019 offensive numbers.
2021 role: Mercado is likely going to compete for the centerfield role with Bradley Zimmer in camp. It’s possible the two could platoon, but the composition of the rest of the roster is going to have an effect on that possibility.
Fantasy impact: If he earns the everyday starting centerfield role, he’s a nice late flier in deep leagues who could get you 20/20 if everything goes right. Fantasy players should be happy to have even a 15/15 threat on the bench that they can get late in drafts for cheap like Mercado. In shallower leagues he’s more of a waiver player to monitor. Most importantly, if you do play him, he won’t be detrimental to your rate stats while giving you a nice homers/steals floor.