The Baltimore Orioles do not have a great farm system, at least according to practically every major outlet. One area they are very strong at though is the catcher position, and while you don’t hear his name much, you should know about Yermin Mercedes.
Mercedes, 23 (turns 24 in February), wasn’t drafted by the Orioles and Baltimore is not even his first organization, but the O’s may have struck gold in Mercedes.
Baltimore signed him as a minor league free agent after the 2014 season. Mercedes spent 2011-13 in the Washington Nationals organization where he never played above the Dominican Summer League (Rookie). It’s not as though he didn’t perform well either, having hit a combined .296 with a .373 on base percentage in the three years he spent in Washington’s organization, but they let him walk anyway.
After a decent showing with the Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds in 2015 (.272/.302/.456), Mercedes began 2016 with the Shorebirds once again due to the amount of quality catchers in the O’s system. Mercedes proceeded to erupt with the bat.
In 91 games with the Shorebirds in 2016, Mercedes hit a robust .353 with 14 home runs, 25 doubles, five triples, 60 RBI and scored 58 runs. In addition, he also posted an impressive .411 OBP and a .990 OPS. Despite playing the final six weeks with the High-A Frederick Keys, Mercedes still had enough at-bats to qualify among the league leaders in the South Atlantic League (Delmarva). Mercedes won the batting title in the SAL (40 points better than any other qualifier) and also finished as the league leader in OBP and OPS.
Thanks to the Steve Pearce trade with the Tampa Bay Rays that saw Baltimore send catcher Jonah Heim to Tampa, a spot opened in Frederick and Mercedes was promoted to High-A.
It didn’t take long to realize that Mercedes’ bat was legit. Over 31 games with the Keys, Mercedes hit .318 with six home runs, six doubles, 17 RBI and scored 20 runs. He also posted a .381 on base percentage and a .923 OPS.
So his bat was terrific, but what about his defense behind the plate?
Over 62 total games behind the plate in 2016, Mercedes threw out 30.3% of potential base runners and committed six errors in 639 total chances. His biggest flaw defensively though is his ability to block balls in the dirt as he had 24 passed balls this year.
If there is one thing we have seen the Orioles be able to do in regards to their minor leaguers, it’s the ability to help catchers improve their defense (see Caleb Joseph and Chance Sisco for example), so I firmly believe that they can do the same with Mercedes.
There is no denying that his bat is of high quality as a career .311 minor league average (309 games) can attest to that, but Mercedes will have to work on his defense to have a future behind the plate in the Orioles’ system.
By: Josh Michael