After a couple days of trying to get through the road trip without resorting to the measure, the White Sox placed Tim Anderson on the injured list with a strained left hamstring retroactive to April 5. Danny Mendick, who has been traveling with the team as part of the taxi squad, is on hand to take his place.
The addition of Mendick gives Tony La Russa another option at shortstop besides Leury García, who has been hitting like a pitcher. I say that not because he’s 2-for-20, but because he seems kinda lost at the plate if bunting has been taken off the table.
It might be just as important to provide an alternative to Nick Madrigal, who’s been a little better at the plate (4-for-18), but a little bit of a mess in the field. The record only shows one error, but he’s up to a few non-error misplays that have made life harder for White Sox pitchers.
* * * * * * * * *
An unprecedented, out-of-nowhere start brings an unprecedented amount of attention, and after 10 years of slugging it out in the minor leagues and independent baseball, Yermín Mercedes is finally getting his turn. He set a record by opening the 2021 season 8-for-8, which makes his current line of 13-for-23 appear that he’s cooled off.
Alas, not all the attention is positive. Ken Rosenthal wanted to know why Mercedes couldn’t find traction with his first two organizations, because Mercedes seemed to tumble down the charts of both the Washington Nationals (after which he spent a few years in independent ball) and the Baltimore Orioles (from whom the White Sox claimed Mercedes in the Rule 5 draft). Representatives from both organizations said Mercedes proved them wrong, but unspecified knocks on Mercedes’ makeup leaves them short of mea culpas.
“I misjudged the makeup,” [Nationals assistant GM of international operations John] Dipuglia said. “For him to get to the big leagues after the struggles he had, it shows me he had a lot more mental fortitude than I thought he did. He had some discipline problems over here, I won’t deny that.” […]“There’s a reason why he’s moved around,” former Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Monday night on MLB Network. “Trust me, it’s not just pure baseball. I remember when he was taken in the (Rule 5) draft, we were glad they took him.
“It doesn’t mean he can’t play. You trust your people. I saw the numbers. He could hit a little bit. (But) I remember talking to the farm director, talking to the general manager: ‘What do we got on this guy?’ They did not think his ability would override the other challenges he had.”
Rick Hahn says the White Sox “were certainly aware of some of the question marks,” but he also doesn’t clarify much.
Mercedes’ breakout had me looking back at the first time I saw him play, which was one day short of three years ago. He wasn’t the first prospect I came to see — Dylan Cease started one of the games, and Winston-Salem’s roster also had guys like Gavin Sheets, Luis Basabe and Blake Rutherford — but Mercedes managed to catch my eye for other reasons.
Yermin Mercedes was my favorite player to watch in the non-Cease division. There’s a lot going on there — a strong arm, a lot of dropped pitches (and passed ball), two-foot hops after swinging through pitches, a bat slam after popping one up, for example.
He also got nailed in the groin with a foul tip that put him on his back.
He stayed in the game, only to get clipped in the same area with a pitch in the dirt. On a possibly related note, he was the only player on the field in short sleeves.
It should be said that Mercedes went 0-for-7 with three strikeouts during that doubleheader, so one could make the argument that he shouldn’t have stood out to me when I wasn’t looking for him. He’s a player with considerable design flaws, so I can see the possibility that a team might determine he’s not directing his energy toward a viable path to MLB playing time. This would be described in a scouting report as “the dude is a trip.”
But it’d be helpful — or at the very least, not unfair — to specify something of the sort, rather than leave the topic completely open-ended. Baseball’s on a little bit of a creep streak, so if the reader is left to fill in the blanks, there are a few too many places the mind can go. Likewise, I’m reminded of how Nicky Delmonico was knocked by the Brewers as somebody who ghosted them, and it turned out he had addiction and mental health issues to address. Knowingly or unknowingly, baseball men can filter out players who don’t meet the “future baseball man” description.
* * * * * * * * *
Dallas Keuchel takes the mound for the White Sox today after a lackluster debut. The player I’ll be measuring him to the next couple years, Zack Wheeler, was also covered by Rosenthal in the same notebook, because Wheeler is coming off a sensational start to his 2021 season.
Back on April 3, Wheeler tossed seven shutout innings, striking out 10 Braves while allowing just one measly hit. And if Phillies pitching coach Caleb Cotham is to be believed, Wheeler has more such performances in them.
Zack Wheeler told the MLB on Fox broadcast team last week that his goal is to attack hitters the way Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and other aces do, and first-year Phillies pitching coach Caleb Cotham said Wheeler’s commitment to becoming that type of pitcher is the thing that jumps out most about him.
Cotham is well-versed in data, but also sees the importance of incorporating more subjective elements. He said the ability to “make it personal” and “get after hitters” is actually a skill pitchers develop.
If the reports are to be believed, the White Sox made the top offer for Wheeler, something along the lines of $125 million when Wheeler stopped at $120 million to sign with the Phillies. Both figures blew the Wheeler’s projected contract estimates out of the water, so $125 million seemed like a reasonable place to stop, and the Sox instead redirected their resources toward Keuchel, who commanded only three years and $55.5 million guaranteed, with an option that could make it four and $74 million.
The White Sox weren’t necessarily wrong to go that route, although the lack of an impressive follow-up to the Grandal/Keuchel winter puts a different spin on it. But if Keuchel gets off to a slow start while Wheeler looks like a world-beater, it’ll be hard for Rick Hahn to continue to claim that Keuchel proves the White Sox can shop the top of a free agent market. The $70 million gap between commitments already made that a stretch, and should the performances of Wheeler and Keuchel diverge from here, that stretch will snap.
Hmm…I think the mystery reason it’s Mercedes weight. I can see an organization asking a player to lose weight, the player doesn’t lose the weight and suddenly he doesn’t have the right attitude, the will, the make up for being the right kind of athlete.
I don’t think it could be that. You can’t say “discipline” issues when it’s weight related.
I was thinking along the lines of the team giving him a nutritionist and a diet, and he breaks it.
But maybe it’s about yelling at coaches.
I think you make a good point. There is an annoying lack of transparency here.
Okay, I’m out, who’s leading off today?
He’s also talked about wanting to quit baseball at times along the way. It’s possible that they saw a guy who just didn’t look like he wanted to be there.
In his interview with Garfien, he brought being really angry with a manager. He was kind of vague about it, but it may be related to that?
Went back and listened to it (link). Here’s something close to a direct quote, with a potential misunderstanding of his accent here or there.
That “something happened” is as vague as it can be. I think it’s the best if we forget about it, and move on. Digging this out has no much purpose unless it is a recurring thing. If it is a one time thing (and not an ilegal thing like domestic abuse,etc), let’s call it life experience.
Well, it depends if that “something” also played into why the White Sox were slow to promote and play him. Sometimes that “something” is a clash with a manager or other sort of personality conflict that doesn’t make him worth the trouble. Sometimes that “something” is Omar Vizquel-grade. At least with Vizquel, there was a cursory description (“alleged incident involving Vizquel and a male clubhouse worker”) that pointed in a direction.
It doesn’t seem like Mercedes did anything awful, but with the number of worse stories that popped up over the winter (Vizquel, Jared Porter, Mickey Callaway), baseball people are probably better off being a little more transparent about such a relatively harmless situation, because the industry doesn’t do a great job of addressing the abhorrent stuff in real time.
Fair points. If bringing it up, then be clear about it or don’t bring it up seems to be a good policy.
Wow. Is it rare to have clubs openly make character defamations about a player like that? I don’t recall ever hearing teams make such forward statements about a player like that before, warranted or not.
Why didn’t the Nationals and Orioles take the high road? The damning comments by Showalter, especially, need elaboration. Just shut the f**k up or tell the whole story.
Showalter isn’t employed by the Orioles anymore.
And he didn’t really spend any time with minor league catcher Yermin, did he?
Catchers get the most exposure to major league managers since even guys without a major league invite end up at the start of camp to work with pitchers.
There might be something here, but the innuendoes at this time strike me as obnoxious.
Maybe there is more to it, but those quotes from Showalter and Dipuglia take me back to that scene from Moneyball
“Who is Fabio”…..love it!!!
“Der mentsh trakht, un Got lakht.” (“Man plans and God laughs” — Yiddish proverb)
Yermín’s hot start has raised his ZiPS and Steamer rest of season wRC+ projections by 10 points. Steamer now sees him as a league average hitter the rest of the way (102 wRC+)
Having a DH that’s a league average hitter is a big improvement.
Does anyone actually care? He’s on the Sox now, and as long as he follows the rules here I don’t see why that other stuff matters. He’s also now in his late 20’s, married, and has a kid, so I would assume there’s been some maturing along the way.
I’m sure we’re also all aware how someone like Mercedes could never get away with things that top prospects probably get away with all the time.
It’s like asking your wife about her party life before you met her. Do you really want to know?
If her “party life” involved assault or virulent racism/homophobia/etc., I would. The main issue to me is the level of vagueness here could mean had anything from he had an attitude problem to borderline criminal behavior.
As Jim mentioned a few times, MLB doesn’t have a good enough reputation that we can give them the benefit of the doubt.
I would be pretty surprised if it were anything other than a perceived bad attitude. My guess is that he’s been angry in the past about people being promoted ahead of him that he felt weren’t as good as him.
If he had actually don’t something criminal or close to it, I have to think that info would be out there.
Agree. And he seems like a popular player judging by teammate reactions to him.
Dan Fabian discusses acquiring Yermín Mercedes in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft on the MLB Pipeline podcast https://www.mlb.com/news/pipeline-podcast-discusses-yermin-mercedes-historic-start starts around the 16:10 mark
Says of the players available in that draft, he was at the top of their list based on the scouting reports from a pro scout (good hitter, strong arm, catching was rough). Doug Laumann was in the Dominican and offered to check out Winter League games in the evenings. The front office asked Laumann to scout Mercedes and his reports were similar to the pro scout who covered Mercedes’ minor league team/area.
In discussing the minor league rule 5 generally and *not* Mercedes specifically, Fabian mentions that players with off the field issues can benefit from a fresh start after being drafted in the minor league rule 5.
Eric Longenhagen has some notes on Jake Burger in the post-spring-training, pre-minor-league-season unofficial Arizona co-op league https://blogs.fangraphs.com/a-wednesday-scouting-notebook-4-7-2021/
“Though he’s still a stiff, tightly-wound athlete, Burger looks as lean and agile as I’ve ever seen him and he made a couple nice plays in on the grass as part of the White Sox/Mariners co-op team. He got the barrel on some inside pitches and was strong enough to single the other way when he was jammed by another during my look. He doesn’t look like an everyday player or anything like that, but he might come out the other side of his horrible health luck as a role-playing corner bat.”
So, maybe Burger is next year’s Lamb?