Gaither (Tampa, Fla.)
shortstop Oscar Mercado
already ranks as one of the top middle infield prospects heading into
the 2013 Major League Baseball Draft, but both he and his coach agree
that he still has plenty of room to grow.
"Oscar is a 17-year old player that is still growing into his body," said Gaither coach Frank Permuy. "But he is a true five-tool player. More power will come in another year or so when he fully matures. His speed on the bases is something to behold."
Mercado agreed, saying that he knows he has not reached his full potential.
"I personally have not peaked," he said. "But I'm on my way to breaking the school stolen base record. I try to always keep working hard because you can always get better."
While Mercado realizes that he still has work ahead, scouts are high on the 6-foot-1, 175-pound shortstop, mainly for his defensive skills. Analysis of Mercado's abilities praise his quick feet, above-average arm and graceful, fluid play. Power is not seen as a strength right now, but his quick hands should make him a consistent hitter at the next level.
Permuy also sees Mercado's speed as one of his best selling points.
"There have been many moments when you just say ‘Wow,'" said Permuy. "Just the other night with the game tied in the last inning, Oscar doubles down the line. When the outfielder bobbles the ball, Oscar takes third and scores two pitches later on a ball that bounces out in front of the plate to win the ball game."
Permuy also said Mercado, the No. 9 player on the MaxPreps Top 100 seniors list
, is a team leader who is able to stay humble despite the attention focused in his direction.
"Oscar is a quiet leader with a great work ethic," said Permuy. "He leads by example and is the hardest-working player on our ball club. Oscar's greatest qualities are his sincerity and honesty in dealing with everyday expectations heaped on him by scouts and the media."
For the season, Mercado is batting .286 with 14 RBIs, four doubles and 17 runs scored. On the basepaths, he has swiped 26 bases. As a junior, Mercado hit .370 with 29 RBIs, 28 runs, four doubles and 17 stolen bases.
Over the summer, Mercado was on the go. He participated in the East Coast Pro Showcase, the Perfect Game Classic, the Under Armour All-American Game and the Florida Diamond Club showcase. The best experience, he said, was playing for Marucci Elite.
"I played with and against some very talented players," said Mercado. "It was a humbling experience."
Mercado has been in love with the game ever since he began playing with a foam bat and ball given to him by his mom. However it was only this past season that he felt that he might have a chance to excel at the next level.
"During a game this past year I went 4-for-4 in front of some major college scouts," said Mercado. "That made me believe that I could play at the college level. It makes me nervous to play in front of the scouts, but I'm adapting."
Mercado is signed to play at Florida State University next year, but he noted that it would be a great opportunity and an honor to be drafted in June. Most mock drafts list Mercado as a middle-of-the-first-round pick.
Whoever selects Mercado, Permuy feels that team will inherit a special person.
"A special person is someone who knows how to handle success in a manner that everyone respects that person and wants only good things to come his way. This is Oscar Mercado."