Mercado was drafted in the second round of the 2017 draft and received a large over-slot bonus (over $2M) to pry him away from his commitment to Stanford University. I’ve seen the 19-year-old make three starts during my Penn League coverage this summer.
Mercado has the ideal frame for a pitcher. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 160 pounds, there is clearly room to add muscle as he physically matures and follows a professional weight training program. He has lean and projectable frame, though he’s probably heavier than the listed weight. He has an extremely smooth and easy delivery, which allows him repeat his motion and command all of his pitches. Mercado’s fastball sits 91-to-93 mph and tops out at 94. He controls the pitch to all four quadrants of the strike zone, especially elevating the heater with two strikes. The 19-year-old’s best off-speed pitch is his curveball. The offering sits 75-to-80 mph and exhibits good shape. Mercado’s changeup is not far behind the breaking ball and is more advanced than most teenagers’. The pitch ranges from 83-to-86 mph with good downward movement. He shows a plan on the mound, working quickly and aggressively and attacking hitters.
There is a lot to like with the Rays’ young pitcher. I expect his velocity to increase as he fills out his projectable frame and he already shows a good feel for two off-speed pitches. I see Mercado as a middle of the rotation starter with the potential to be a number two if he can add a bit more bite to the curveball and horizontal movement to his changeup. A high-ceiling prospect, all the ingredients are here for a potential FV 60 pitcher—albeit one with some risk to the profile. He’s a prospect that could jump onto the national radar with a strong showing in full-season ball to begin 2019.