Tampa Bay Rays: Top 10 Rookie-Eligible Prospects for 2018

PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 27: A Rays hat and glove sit at the end of the dugout during a Grapefruit League Spring Training Game between the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park on February 27, 2009 in Port Charlotte, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 27: A Rays hat and glove sit at the end of the dugout during a Grapefruit League Spring Training Game between the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park on February 27, 2009 in Port Charlotte, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images) /
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2017 Acquisition: Michael Mercado, RHP

Birthday (age on opening day 2018): 4/15/99 (18)
2017 teams/levels played for: Gulf Coast League Rays
2017 Stats: 8 GS, 21 1/3 IP, 1.69 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 4.7% BB, 16.3% K

Info: As I was preparing for the 2017 draft and reviewing scouting reports from friends and contacts in the scouting industry, one guy consistently caught my eye for the off-field stuff, and that was Mercado. His attitude about the game was great in the write-ups I read, and his ability on the mound was certainly such that he could have had a cocky attitude.

Mercado ended up going to the Rays with the 40th overall pick in the 2nd round in June, signing for above slot to go to the Rays.

More from Call to the Pen

At 6’4″, Mercado has the natural frame to impress, though he’s tremendously lean in that frame now at a listed 160 pounds (though I’d wager he’s more in the 175-180 range in workout videos I’ve seen this winter of him). He already has a loose, easy delivery that generates low-90s velocity with plenty of projection in the arm.

What is impressive is his feel for pitching, especially in his breaking stuff. Mercado’s curve has a tremendous sharp break that left hitters either flailing wildly or completely frozen in the views I had on him. He throws a slider that doesn’t have the same sharpness, but he plays the pitch up by locating it very well and using it within counts well to keep hitters off-balance.

Mercado’s need to fill in his frame will likely mean for a slow initial progression through the Rays minor league system, likely playing short-season ball next year before working his way to the Midwest League in 2019, but the talent is here that once the reigns are released, he could absolutely fly through the system.

Next: Rays Mount Rushmore

That’s the Rays top 10 prospects going into the 2018 season. Who was too high? Who was too low? Who was missing? Let us know in the comments below!!