As the fantasy baseball season winds down and the offseason approaches, Last Word on Baseball is kicking off a new series to get you through the lonely days if you missed out on the playoff festivities. We will be spotlighting players to keep an eye on for the 2020 season. These could be exciting youngsters or veterans returning to form. Cleveland Indians outfielder Oscar Mercado is next up. Leave a comment below and let us know what you think!
Oscar Mercado, Cleveland Indians, OF
Rookie outfielder Oscar Mercado has had a very strong first year in the big leagues. Things started out great for the Cleveland Indians youngster, and after enduring a bit of a two-month slump, he’s playing better than ever. Entering the season, the former St. Louis Cardinals prospect wasn’t on many radars, if any. His strong play earned recognition as a priority waiver target during the season. However, after that point, things went downhill. The Indians are fighting for their playoff lives, and luckily at the moment, Mercado is playing great again.
Hot Start to Career
Before getting the call on May 14, the Indians were struggling offensively, and Mercado was in Triple-A tearing it up. His line at Columbus was a healthy .294/.396/.496, with four homers, 15 RBI, 24 runs, and 14 steals in 30 games. The 24-year-old has always displayed excellent baserunning, stealing over 200 bases in his seven minor league seasons. He topped out at 50 back in 2015. Mercado had two strong months of play to begin his career — May and June combined he slashed .314/.360/.477, adding 16 extra-base hits, 17 RBI, 28 runs, and six steals in 39 games. Fantasy owners who gambled early on him were rewarded nicely. His luck turned south afterward, however.
July and August were almost a night and day difference for Mercado. In those two months, his line fell to .235/.279/.385. In 50 games during that span, he had 15 extra-base hits, 18 RBI, 26 runs, and six steals. Similar totals to the previous two months, but it took 11 more games. Overall, Mercado’s batting average fell 33 points over the summer. He entered July batting .304, but by the time September came, it was down to .271. Throughout it all, he kept his spot behind Francisco Lindor as the Tribe’s two-hole hitter. That faith led to a resurgence this month.
Postseason play is almost upon us. October is only days away, and as things stand right now, Cleveland is 1.5 games out of the final AL Wild Card spot. With only four games remaining, the Indians have no margin for error. Mercado is playing arguably the best baseball of his career right now, and there’s no doubt he’s a major reason why Cleveland is still knocking at the door. This month he’s slashed .302/.367/.570. He has 12 extra-base hits and 19 RBI in only 22 games. If he can finish the season strong, that will be three months of batting over .300 and having an OPS over .800.
It’s safe to say Mercado is locked in atop the Indians order moving forward. Hitting behind Lindor and ahead of Carlos Santana and Jose Ramirez only means good things for fantasy purposes. Mercado has the ability to contribute in most offensive categories. If he can get opportunities to display the kind of speed he flashed in the minors, we could be talking about a real fantasy baseball stud here. Valuable outfielders are in abundance, but making bargain pickups like Mercado is where you can separate yourself from the other teams in your league. There’s not much reason to believe a power surge is in the cards, though he has hit a total of 19 homers this season. A strong average and a 20/30 season are not out of the question by any means. Runs should be fine, too. Expect a strong full first season in the majors next year.
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