First Pitch: Can Jordy Mercer Be a Starting Shortstop?

Tonight I saw two different opinions on the upside of Jordy Mercer. First, Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus tweeted that Mercer could be an “OK utility player” when asked about Mercer’s upside. Then, in Kristy Robinson’s notebook, Clint Hurdle said that he feels Mercer could eventually be a starting shortstop.

I lean closer to Hurdle’s opinion. I think Mercer can be a starting shortstop in the majors. However, I wouldn’t expect that anytime soon. Mercer has a track record of getting off to slow starts. He was promoted to Double-A in 2010, and hit for a .702 OPS in 485 at-bats. The next year he returned to Double-A and hit for an .816 OPS in 265 at-bats.

That got him promoted to Triple-A, where he hit for a .689 OPS in 226 at-bats during the second half of the 2011 season. This year he went back to Triple-A and hit for a .778 OPS in 209 at-bats. Both times he improved the second year at the level. Also in both times, he struggled in April during his second year, then went on a tear starting in mid-May, before his eventual promotion.

In his first few at-bats this year, Mercer played well. But lately he’s been seeing more playing time, and the numbers have fallen. He has a .159 average and a .532 OPS in 44 at-bats. That’s currently lower than the .566 OPS that Clint Barmes has on the year.

I still think Mercer should get playing time. He’s benefitting from playing time right now with Walker injured. But when Walker returns, Mercer should get some time at shortstop. I wouldn’t give him a lot of time. Considering his slow start history, it would be better to ease him in to the position. At this point I don’t think he’d be much of an upgrade over Clint Barmes as an everyday starter. But picking favorable matchups for him and giving him the occasional start could allow him to put up better results than he would as an everyday guy. And in the best case scenario, it could speed up the development process and help get him beyond his slow adjustment period at the new level.

Links and Notes

**The Pirates beat the Cardinals 2-1.

**Pirates Notebook: McDonald Tosses Best Outing of Second Half.

**Prospect Watch: Big Day For Holt; Kaminska Throws Six No-Hit Innings.

**Indians Hold On To Make Holt’s First Homer Count For The Win.

**Jameson Taillon Promoted to Double-A.

**A Behind the Numbers Look at Jameson Taillon’s 2012 Season.

**Pirates Hoping Extra Side Helps McDonald Get Back on Track.

**Gerrit Cole Leads Baseball America’s Prospect Hot Sheet.

**Pirates Announce Post-Season Ticket Information.

**A Second Pirates Prospect Fails a Test For a Drug of Abuse.

**Minor Moves: Aaron Pribanic, Jonathan Schwind.

**Tomorrow’s Starter: Exploring the Arsenal – Lance Lynn.

**Minor League Schedule: 8/18/12.

Analysis

  • I like Mercer, I think he would eventually hit in the majors, but I don’t like the way he plays the ball at SS to his right, I think a top SS has to make tough plays to their right and I see Mercers footwork as a problem, IMO, he still needs more time and instruction at AAA. At this point in time I do not believe a .150 hitter is what the Pirates need on their bench, a veteran that can hit and play some defense would be a much better choice IMO.

  • Tim….I completely agree with your assessment. I think Mercer can be a Jay Bell type or at least Jay Bell-lite who keeps the position warm for Hanson.

  • Barmes will probably still be around next year, so no need to rush Mercer into things. He could take over midway through next year when the Pirates finally give up on Barmes.
    If Allen Hanson sticks at the position, he is probably 3 years away so that gives Mercer a few years to distinguish himself.

    • Brock Holt will be nipping at his heels next year as well

      • If Brock Holt continues playing like he has been he should be the starting shortstop by June 2013. Mercer’s future is as utility guy if he stays with the Bucs because there is no way he should block Holt.

        • Don’t get me wrong, I like Holt. But the Pirates brass doesn’t. And it’s not because they particularly like Mercer either. Hurdle’s guy is Barmes and unfortunately he’s going to get the P.T. in front of both guys. It is nice that Holt is getting P.T. at SS at AAA while d’arnaud has been moved to 2nd.

  • Barmes will probably still be around next year, so no need to rush Mercer into things. He could take over midway through next year when the Pirates finally give up on Barmes.
    If Allen Hanson sticks at the position, he is probably 3 years away so that gives Mercer a few years to distinguish himself.

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