Yermin Mercedes Puts Himself On Brink Of The Majors

Image credit: (Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — When Yermin Mercedes heard the news, he couldn’t help but smile.

Major League Baseball officially announced the addition of the 26th roster spot earlier this month. Among other effects, the rule change means longtime minor leaguers, such as Mercedes, now have an additional path to the major leagues.

Mercedes spent eight seasons in the minors and another in independent ball. He’s 27 years old, an age when many other career minor leaguers retire or go to Asia to seek other playing opportunities.

Not Mercedes. With the rule change, the White Sox catcher now finds himself on the cusp of the major leagues.

“I’m thinking about it like I’m the 26th man right now,” Mercedes said. “They’re going to give me the opportunity and I’m going to take it.”

Mercedes backed up his words Monday, launching a gargantuan home run and adding a single in the White Sox’s 2-2 tie with the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch.

Mercedes’ seventh-inning homer off Parker Curry traveled 447 feet, as measured by TrackMan, and cleared the grassy knoll in left field before landing on the concourse. The solo shot was the White Sox’s first run of the day and the furthest home run Mercedes said he’s ever hit.

“He throw me a fastball first pitch, then a curveball and he missed it,” Mercedes said. “But he threw the curve again and I was waiting for it. Because I’m a catcher, I knew he was going to throw me the curve again.”

Mercedes is in this position after a late-career renaissance. He originally signed with the Nationals in 2011 as an 18-year-old but was released after three years in the Dominican Summer League. He spent the 2014 season playing in the independent Pecos and United Leagues, the latter of which folded after that season. The Orioles signed him after that season and kept him for three years, but opted against protecting him in the Rule 5 draft. The White Sox took him in the minor league portion of the 2017 Rule 5 draft and have since reaped the rewards.

Mercedes hit .317/.388/.581 at Double-A and Triple-A last season with 23 home runs and 80 RBI in only 95 games. He went to the Dominican Winter League after the season and hit .341/.375/.477. The White Sox added him to the 40-man roster in November, an accomplishment in itself given his journey.

With All-Star catchers Yasmani Grandal and James McCann on the roster, there would have been no obvious path for Mercedes to make the White Sox out of spring training with the old 25-man roster. But with the addition of the 26th roster spot and teams now considering carrying a third catcher, he is firmly in the mix with fellow catching prospects Seby Zavala and Zack Collins to break camp with the big club.

“I’m feeling great because I just keep working hard and doing my job there in the field,” he said. “When the White Sox give me the opportunity, I just do my job.”

Mercedes will likely have to fight the battle throughout spring training. But the fact he’s even in the battle at all, and only an injury or two away from the majors even if he doesn’t make the team out of camp, is something he isn’t taking for granted.

After being released out of the DSL, playing independent ball and being left unprotected in the minor league Rule 5 draft, he’s ready for it to all pay off.

“It was a long time,” he said. “I’m just waiting for that call and going to keep doing my job.”

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