Fleet-footed outfielder Oscar Mercado is our No. 16 Cleveland Indians prospect after he was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals at the trade deadline last year for Conner Capel and Jhon Torres.
A 2013 second round draft pick out of high school by the Cardinals, Mercado originally was a shortstop. He struggled in his first four seasons, failing to post a wRC+ higher than 86 as he advanced to High-A, but a move to the outfield changed everything.
Mercado switched to the outfield full time in 2017 as he made his Double-A debut and his offense improved drastically. No longer worrying about fielding grounders, Mercado slashed .287/.341/.428 while slugging 13 home runs and stealing 38 bases, good enough for a by-far career-high 114 wRC+.
The 24-year-old was slashing .285/.351/.408 in his Triple-A debut at the time he was traded to the Indians in late July but he cooled off for the entire month of August as he acclimated to his new surroundings and was not given a cup of coffee with the Tribe in September. Of note, he posted a double digit walk-rate for the first time during his stint with Columbus.
Mercado possesses elite speed, strong defense, a decent arm, improving contact ability and enough power to project double-digit home runs. He has stolen 33 or more bases for the past four seasons since he began playing full-season ball.
The Florida native was acquired to add depth to the upper tiers of the Indians’ minor league system in the outfield and will have every opportunity to prove himself and earn a job with the Tribe this year.
WHO SHOULD BE THE NO. 17 PROSPECT FOR 2019?
Raynel Delgado, 3B (Age 18)
2018 (R): 204 PA, .306/.409/.382, 1 HR, 10 SB, 14.7 BB%, 21.6 K%, 133 wRC+
2018 sixth round pick the Indians paid $664,400 over slot to sign. Delgado held his own in his professional debut, putting up strong numbers and showing great patience at the plate in the AZL.
Richard Palacios, SS (Age 21)
2018 (R): 22 PA, .438/.591/.875, 2 HR, 2 SB, 27.3 BB%, 9.1 K%, 281 wRC+
2018 (A-): 86 PA, .411/.477/.589, 2 HR, 2 SB, 12.8 BB%, 14.0 K%, 208 wRC+
2018 (A): 82 PA, .300/.317/.425, 2 HR, 3 SB, 2.4 BB%, 15.9 K%, 109 wRC+
Indians 2018 third round draft pick out of Towson University tore through the short season leagues and was not challenged until arriving in full-season Lake County, where he still had a wRC+ above 100.
Eric Haase, C (Age 26)
2018 (AAA): 477 PA, .236/.288/.443, 20 HR, 3 SB, 6.5 BB%, 30.0 K%, 102 wRC+
Had some difficulty adjusting to his first full season at Triple-A but still managed to hit 20 home runs for the third year in a row. Was named the top defensive player in the Indians system by MLB Pipeline after throwing out 48.5 percent of basestealers.
Aaron Civale, RHP (Age 23)
2018 (AA): 21 GS, 106.1 IP, 17.5 K%, 4.7 BB%, 3.89 ERA, 3.98 FIP
Slowed by injury in his 2018 Double-A debut that saw his strikeout rate drop, Civale still showed the impeccable control that has allowed him to quickly advance through the Tribe system since being drafted in the third round in 2016.
Eli Morgan, RHP (Age 22)
2018 (A): 8 GS, 44.1 IP, 32.9 K%, 4.7 BB%, 1.83 ERA, 2.22 FIP
2018 (A+): 19 GS, 99.0 IP, 24.0 K%, 6.2 BB%, 3.91 ERA, 3.75 FIP
Gonzaga alum drafted in eighth round of 2017 doesn’t have elite velocity or size, but makes up for it with stellar command and the best change-up in the Tribe system, which helps spike his strikeout rate.
Gabrial Rodriguez (Age 16)
2018: did not play
Top Indians international signing of 2018 out of Venezuela, signed for $2.2 million. Standing 6-foot-2, he was the sixth highest-rated international prospect by MLB Pipeline. Should skip DSL and debut in AZL in 2019.
Will Benson, OF (Age 20)
2018 (A): 506 PA, .180/.324/.370, 22 HR, 12 SB, 16.2 BB%, 30.0 K%, 102 wRC+
In first taste of full-season ball, the 2016 first round pick posted an elite walk-rate while dropping his strikeout rate and blasted 22 home runs. Batting average suffered due to horrifically unlucky .218 BABIP but all other signs were positive.
Who should be the No. 17 Indians prospect?
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