Continuing our preview of players the Rangers could pick with their two first round picks (#23 and #30 overall) in the 2013 MLB Draft, which kicks off next week, this morning we take a look at high school shortstop Oscar Mercado.
Oscar Mercado is a 6'2", 175 lb. shortstop who plays for Gaither High School in Tampa, Florida. Mercado was born in Colombia in December, 1994, and emigrated to the U.S. as an eight year old. Mercado is a righthanded hitter whose calling card is his defense -- Baseball America, in listing the "best tools" in the 2013 draft, had Mercado as one of three players listed under "Best High School Defender."
Mercado's stock dropped during a disappointing senior season that saw him post a sub-.300 batting average. While Mercado was ranked #11 among high school draft prospects in March, the current BA rankings have Mercado at #18 among high schoolers and #38 overall. There seems to be a wide range of opinions on Mercado, as Keith Law doesn't even include him in his top 100 list, while Scout has Mercado at #30 overall. Scout's latest mock draft has Mercado going to Texas at #30, and says that the Rangers have targeted Mercado. Jonathan Mayo, Minor League Ball, Jim Callis, and Keith Law all have Mercado falling out of the first round in their latest mocks, although Law mentions that he's heard the Rangers could grab Mercado at #30.
The reason why Mercado could go in the first round, despite the issues with his bat, are that he's a legitimate, quality defender at shortstop, one of the best defensive shortstops in the draft. The Rangers have shown, with their pursuit of players like Elvis Andrus, Jurickson Profar, Luis Sardinas, Leury Garcia, and Luis Marte that they covet shortstops with plus defensive ability. BA raves about Mercado's instincts on the basepaths and in the field, which bring to mind the praise Elvis and Profar have gotten for their instincts. The question is whether Mercado's other tools -- and in particular, his bat -- will develop sufficiently to let him show off his glovework at the upper levels.
Mercado has a commitment to Florida State, and there seems to be some thought that if he's not popped in the first round he could go to college rather than going pro. I could see the Rangers grabbing Mercado in the second or third rounds, if he slips that far, and then paying him above-slot money with draft pool savings from grabbing college seniors in the sixth through tenth rounds. The Rangers nabbed Nick Williams in the second round last year after a similarly disappointing senior season, and Williams has ended up being arguably the most successful of the team's 2012 draftees.
In any case, Mercado is a guy who I read about and think, this sounds like a Rangers draft pick. Projectable, quality defender at an up-the-middle position, good marks for instincts, someone who they may be "buying low" on after his draft stock fell this year with the down year. I can see why the Rangers are supposedly in on him, and why people think he could end up in Texas.
Below is some Mercado video:
Oscar Mercado Prospect Video, Gaither High School (via Steve Fiorindo)
2012 Under Armour All-American OSCAR MERCADO powered by Baseball Factory (via baseballfactoryTV)
Oscar Mercado - SS - Gaither High School (Tampa, FL) (via alskor)