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Jordan Luplow over Oscar Mercado makes sense — for now

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The long night continues before the dawn of Oscar Mercado

MLB: Spring Training-Cleveland Indians at Arizona Diamondbacks Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday, we lost Greg Allen to the Night King to the Columbus Clippers. As a noted Greg fan, it was tough to see him get optioned, and tougher still to grasp its necessity. But this speaks volumes:

.105/.167/.158, .150 wOBA, -13 OPS+, -0.4 bWAR, -0.5 fWAR, -0.2 WARP

Those numbers beg for a demotion. No matter the underlying skill, Allen was not cutting it at the big league level.

For those of us fully on-board the #UnleashMercado bandwagon, however, the decision to call up Jordan Luplow in place of Allen was frustrating. Yes, Luplow was hitting very well in his short time with the Clippers, slashing .353/.476/.618 with three doubles and a pair of home runs in just 34 at bats — but our favorite son, Oscar, is slashing .321/.418/.538 with nine doubles, a triple, a pair of home runs and eight stolen bases in just more than twice as many at bats (78)! This reeks of injustice!

As pointed out on Twitter by Mitchell Krall of Waiting for Next Year, the odds of Luplow being a Quad-A player seem quite high, whereas no one would say the same about Mercado right now. However, as evidenced in Sunday’s game in Houston, Luplow is in Cleveland to fill a role: Lefty masher.

In his brief stint at Columbus, Luplow put up an OPS of 1.236 against lefties; in his stints in Triple-A in 2018 and 2017 it was .891 and 1.067, respectively. Throughout his minor league career, Luplow has punished left-handed starters, and that’s what he was brought over from Pittsburgh to do. As a right-handed hitter, he also allows Terry Francona (because lord knows he loves balance) to break up the lefty-heavy bottom half of the Tribe lineup.

Though he is also a righty, Mercado does not have dramatic splits in his minor league career. In 2019, his OPS versus lefties is 1.083 and versus righties is .933. And though he and Allen share a profile heavy on speed, Mercado offers a better bat tool; as MLB.com’s Jim Callis put it, “he does a little bit of everything offensively.” Even those of us inclined to be charitable to Allen would have a hard time describing his game that way.

Which brings me back to the decision to bring up Luplow for Allen. This year, Allen has been mostly been deployed as a substitute, with 17 games played but only nine starts. There’s an argument to be made that he is well-suited for the role, as he’s filled all three outfield spots and hits much better (relatively) as a sub, with a 110 OPS+ off the bench compared to -34 OPS+ as a starter. (Here I’ll note that there’s an equally good argument to be made about modern rosters not having room for a true substitute player, but that’s a whole separate thing.) But even if Luplow was recalled to play a platoon role more than a sub role, he’s still likely sharing time with someone. Mercado, on the other hand, deserves to play everyday — at least until he proves otherwise.

So, the choice of Luplow over Mercado right now is a bit frustrating, but the logic behind it is not hard to follow. And it’s not even May. We will see Mercado in Cleveland this year, perhaps soon, but we almost certainly have to wait out the team’s patience for a more established player.

*cough* Tyler Naquin and his *cough* 72 OPS+ and 28% strikeout rate. *cough*