Oscar Mercado, OF, Cleveland Indians
It should come as no surprise that the first two prospects highlighted here are outfielders, a position of constant flux for the Indians since the departure of Michael Brantley.
Cleveland has attempted to plug-and-play with older or aging veterans over the past few seasons to the tune of Carlos Gonzalez, Domingo Santana and Ben Gamel, to very little success. Oscar Mercado was the most stabilizing presence in the outfield for the Tribe in 2019, after being acquired from the Cardinals at the 2018 trade deadline for Connor Capel and Jhon Torres.
After being called up on May 14th, 2019 at the age of 24, Mercado was an instant impact for Cleveland, playing 115 games that season and slashing .269/.318/.443 while hitting 25 doubles, 15 home runs and collecting 15 stolen bases.
In that season, Mercado was one of just 20 major leaguers who put up at least 25 doubles and 15 home runs while swiping 15 bags, joining a list of names that includes Christian Yelich, Bryce Harper, Ozzie Albies, Whit Merrifield and teammates Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor. That campaign landed Mercado eighth in the AL Rookie of the Year Award voting and the future seemed incredibly bright.
However, Mercado fell off a cliff in 2020, a pandemic shortened season that was complete chaos for much of the league. Mercado played in 36 games for Cleveland in 2020, slashing an abysmal .128/.174/.174 before being optioned to the team’s alternate training site in August. He was invited to 2021 spring training where he hit just .214 over 10 games, failing to make the Opening Day roster.
Mercado has yet to return to the majors during his age 26 season, but he’s currently slashing .225/.324/.413 through 41 games with Triple-A Columbus and showing some signs of life with 13 doubles, five home runs and nine stolen bases for the Clippers.
The type of potential that Mercado flashed in 2019 definitely didn’t feel like a fluke, being a significant contributor on a 93-win Cleveland team that included Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor and Carlos Santana. He likely holds a very high trade value, but given his All-Star potential, Mercado can not be ruled out of the Tribe’s future plans and will hopefully return to the big league roster in the near future.