When the Pirates drafted Mercer back-to-back with Chase D’Arnaud in the 2008 draft, it seemed like they were higher on Mercer from the start. They wanted them both to play shortstop, so Mercer was the one that bumped up to Hickory while D’Arnaud stayed in State College. Again in 2008, Mercer jumped to Lynchburg while D’Arnaud began at West Virginia. The thing is, D’Arnaud’s breakout year with the Power and Hillcats moves him past Mercer, both on my chart and likely on the organizational depth chart.
Mercer did show nice power with Lynchburg last year, ripping 36 doubles and 10 homers in his 131 games, but his low batting average and on base percentage (he batted .255 with just 41 walks in 580 plate appearances) are what hindered him. After D’Arnaud was promoted last year, the two players split time at second base and shortstop to get them both reps at the tougher defensive position. I’ll be interested to see how that trend carries over with both of them likely headed to Altoona this season. If D’Arnaud keeps hitting or Mercer fails to start, D’Arnaud may end up getting more reps at shortstop because they’d want the better prospect there. In any case, he needs a big improvement in 2010 to get himself back on the prospect map.
July 2010 Update: Mercer isn’t doing much to help his profile in Altoona this year. He got off to an awful start and like D’Arnaud has bounced back a bit in June and July, but his bounceback is almost entirely batting-average driven (.312 average/.353 OBP in June, .316/.325 in July), and that’s not good. Honestly, I don’t see a whole lot to be excited about here; he might be a decent utility guy if he can ever find his bat but that’s about it.