We don't often talk about Melvin Mercedes in this Prospect Watch series, because frankly he isn't much of a prospect. The infielder and New York native was a late-round pick back in 2012 and still hasn't played above High-A ball. He's 24 now, and he's yet to post an above-average batting line at a full-season affiliate -- this year, he's got a 93 wRC+ for Stockton, and even that is mostly thanks to a high walk rate rather than any actual hitting. But on Saturday, he was the star of the show.
As part of a pre-planned promotion, Mercedes played all nine defensive positions in one game on Saturday. For A's fans, it's reminiscent of Bert Campaneris back in 1965, when he became the first of four MLB players to pull off the feat. It's happened more often in the minors, where the games mean less and there is a greater need for creative promotions, but the most recent instance was back in 2014. Here's how this one played out:
Mercedes started in the infield, and eventually replaced Sandber Pimentel at 1B. As he cycled through C and LF, those players took turns at 1B, and ultimately Chris Iriart vacated the DH spot to play first the rest of the way. Mercedes concluded by pitching the 9th inning, which would have been a save situation if the Ports hadn't upped their lead to 8-3 in the bottom of the 8th. This was actually Mercedes' third pitching appearance of the year, as he previously got the call in a couple of blowouts, and he made short work of his inning by going strikeout, walk, strikeout, popout to seal the victory.
Oh, and at the plate, Mercedes got Stockton started with a leadoff double in the 1st, eventually scoring the opening run. He walked in his next trip in the 2nd inning, amid a four-run Ports rally. He really did it all in this one!
Congrats to Mercedes on a truly memorable day! He still won't be making our Community Prospect List, but that doesn't take away from this awesome performance. Melvin Mercedes is a ballplayer, let me tell you.
Since our last Stockton update, the Ports have lost two pitchers and gained two more to replace them. On the way out (and up to Double-A) were starter James Naile and reliever Cody Stull. Naile had just been passing through anyway, having only thrown eight games in High-A amid his 2016 tour of literally the entire A's full-season farm system. Meanwhile, Stull had spent all year as a lockdown lefty in Stockton's bullpen, which earned him his own spot in the upper minors (Triple-A for a few games, but then settled in at Double-A). Their final Stockton numbers:
Stull, A+: 36 games, 1.46 ERA, 55⅔ ip, 63 Ks, 11 BB, 2 HR, 2.62 FIP
Naile, A+: 8 games, 3.76 ERA, 49⅔ ip, 46 K, 11 BB, 5 HR, 3.93 FIP
To replace them, the A's went somewhere I wasn't expecting just yet -- the 2016 draft. Both new pitchers were members of this summer's class. First we have right-hander Mitchell Jordan, the 10th-round pick out of Stetson. He had been starting in Rookie League and striking out four batters per walk, and he pitched some long relief in his High-A debut (though I expect he'll be starting again next year). The other newcomer is Nick Highberger, the 30th-round pick out of Creighton. He was a reliever in college and has remained so in the pros.
Jordan and Highberger are now the most advanced members of our 2016 class, having reached High-A in the same summer they were drafted. As near as I can tell, no one from the A's 2013-15 classes made it to Stockton so quickly, with only a few even getting to Beloit during their debut season (exception: Matt Chapman played the final game of Double-A Midland's season in 2014, then stuck around for the playoffs ... and of course, in 2011 Sonny Gray more or less went straight to Double-A).
This paragraph purely my speculation: Unfortunately, my hunch is that Jordan and Highberger are here more due to the circumstances than due to their performances forcing aggressive call-ups. They were both fine in Rookie Ball but neither was dominating, whereas the A's have been promoting so many prospects up the system lately that someone needed to fill in and these two guys appear to be the benefactors for now. Despite that disclaimer, it's still exciting for Jordan and Highberger to be the ones picked, and perhaps it hints that they'll be a couple arms the team tries to fast-track next year even though there are clearly more talented ones coming up slower behind them (like A.J. Puk, et al).
Hitters (thru 139 games, including Saturday)
Iriart is on fire since his promotion; those numbers come in 65 plate appearances over 15 games. We'll talk more about this over the winter, but I think he's passed Pimentel on my personal prospect list. Otherwise, this list of Stockton hitters is starting to get short after all of the names that have moved up, such as Marincov, Harris, Martin, Schrock, and Boyd.
|... Bullpen ...|
This group has also lost a lot to promotions this year (which of course is a good thing), including Gossett, Fillmyer, Naile, Stull, Navas, and Finnegan. Among the guys still here, Holmes has bounced back a bit in his last couple outings whereas Meisner is back to getting crushed after a brief resurgence. And for fun, here are Melvin Mercedes' numbers on the mound:
Mercedes, 2016: 3 games, 2.70 ERA, 3⅓ ip, 4 Ks, 3 BB, 1 HR, 7.91 FIP
All five affiliates are in action, with Midland playing a pair.
Triple-A Nashville: LIVE, Daniel Gossett vs. New Orleans
Double-A Midland, #1: LIVE, James Naile vs. Frisco
Double-A Midland, #2: Andres Avila vs. Frisco
High-A Stockton: 6:10 p.m., Brett Graves vs. Bakersfield
Single-A Beloit: Lost 6-2, Boomer Biegalski vs. Wisconsin
Low-A Vermont: Lost 8-3, Dakota Chalmers vs. Lowell
Naile, Biegalski, and Chalmers were all mediocre in their starts. This is Gossett's second game for Triple-A. With Daniel Mengden graduating to MLB rookie status, Graves was added to the A's prospect list on MLB Pipeline at No. 30. In Midland's opener, newcomers Max Schrock and Richie Martin combined for five hits.