Tigers' Mercedes Has Unwavering Demeanor
Hard-throwing righty impresses with poise
DETROIT—Hard throwers such as righthander Melvin Mercedes usually catch people's attention by, well, throwing hard.
But when Mercedes joined high Class A Lakeland squad for its Florida State League championship push, it wasn't the pitch speeds that caught pitching coach Mike Maroth's eye.
"He didn't seem fazed by the situation or the circumstances," he said. "He didn't put any extra pressure on himself—he just pitched. And he pitched well."
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Mercedes spent most of this season with low Class A West Michigan, where he had a 2.80 ERA in 37 appearances and allowed just 54 hits in 64 innings. The curious numbers were 23 walks and just 43 strikeouts despite throwing a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and can reach 99.
But Mercedes, who signed in 2008 out of the Dominican Republic, impressed in the playoffs, allowing just three hits and issuing only one walk, which was intentional, while striking out three in six scoreless innings.
"He commanded his fastball very well," Maroth said. "He was especially good at locating the fastball down and away to righthanded batters. He attacked hitters and worked ahead, and his demeanor on the mound was very confident."
Mercedes, 22, was slowed by Tommy John surgery in 2010. He made 23 relief appearances in 2011, most with short-season Connecticut, and showed no ill effects from the surgery this season. Mercedes mixes in a slider and a changeup that still need some work. But Maroth said the slider was an effective pitch when used with his fastball.
• Third baseman/outfielder Nick Castellanos hit .243/.325/.338 in his first 18 games with Mesa in the Arizona Fall League and led the league with 24 strikeouts.
• Righthander Tyler Clark struck out nine in his first 52⁄3 innings of work with Mesa, but he also allowed 10 hits and walked five and was saddled with a 12.71 ERA.