Manuel Mercedes, RHP
BATS: R / THROWS: R
ACQUIRED: International Signing, July 2019
LAST LEVEL: Rookie
VOLATILITY: Very High
GiantFutures 2022 Ranks: #6 Relief Pitcher, #35 Overall
Performance: Making his delayed debut thanks to the pandemic, Mercedes brought his fastball to the Arizona Complex League and delivered somewhat as expected. Mercedes made 14 appearances, 13 starts, and struck out 62 in 56.1 innings, and was a bit wild, walking 25.
Where Mercedes had some problem was in terms of getting hit. He gave up 61 hits, giving up a .277 batting average, with a .366 average on balls in play. That led to a difficult 1.53 WHIP for his debut season. He was especially prone to getting hit by left-handed batters, who hit .325 against him, and struck out 15 times to 10 walks and 25 hits in 18.1 innings worth of time.
Strengths and Weaknesses: Manuel Mercedes was one of the higher-touted prospects of the 2019 class, with a fastball in the high ’90’s. The fastball can run a bit wild, but he gets strikeouts with it when it is on. He also has strength to grow that fastball a couple more ticks as he doesn’t turn 20 until September.
Like most power pitchers, Mercedes control is an issue. But his bigger challenge at the moment comes in his secondary stuff. His slider is good, but he needs to improve his changeup to be more effective against left-handed batters. If that changeup does get to above-average, his strikeouts should grow, and the hits he gives up should drop significantly.
2022 Outlook: He’s finding the way to San Jose, where all eyes will be on that changeup. He likely won’t be a candidate for a quick promotion as his main goal is consistency and strength, but he has a profile that can force a move up.
Future Profile: Mercedes sits on the line teetering between reliever and starter long-term. If he pushes out a full 3-pitch mix, his ceiling is as a mid-rotation power starter. But there’s a better chance of him moving to relief, with a classic closer mix, especially if that changeup begins working, and even a solid role in the setup mix if he doesn’t reach that.