Interview with Jordy Mercer

Jordy Mercer was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the third round of the 2008 draft. After signing quickly, he went on to hit for a .250/.300/.349 line in 192 at-bats with Hickory. He spent the entire 2009 season in Lynchburg, hitting for a .255/.314/.400 line, with 10 homers in 513 at-bats.

I had a chance to interview Jordy, and we discussed the draft, his defensive skills, and his plans going forward. Here is what he had to say:

Tim: You were taken by the Pirates last year in the third round. What was going through your mind on draft day? How did you feel when you went off the board to the Pirates?

Jordy: It was pretty good. We had a bunch of family around the computer, just sitting and waiting, waiting for that call. Once we got the phone call, all the work put it, it all paid off right then and right there. I was just really really excited, and I couldn’t wait to get out there and start playing.

Tim: You signed fairly quickly last year. Were you just set on signing? What went through the process of signing with the Pirates that early?

Jordy: I just wanted to get out there as soon as I could and start the process of getting in to the system and doing the things I needed to do to work my way up. That’s all I was thinking about at that time.

Tim: You’ve shown some good power, but the average so far has been around the .250 level. The scouting reports on you suggest that you struggle to make contact with pitches in the dirt. Is that one of your biggest focuses this year?

Jordy: Yeah, it was. Last year I really struggled with that. The more (at-bats) I’m going to get, the better I’m going to get, and that’s the way I’m looking at it. This year has been a real successful year, and I think the more at-bats I get, all it’s going to do is get better for me.

Tim: You’ve been described as an offense first shortstop. You’ve since moved over to third base with the log jam, but I’ve seen you both at third and short. How much focus are you paying on your defense, and does that take anything away from the offensive side?

Jordy: Anytime you learn a new position you have to put your focus over there, and get some more reps in, and get used to the feel over there. I think that it’s just a even keel pretty much. You’ve gotta do a little bit more on offense and a little bit more on defense and just kind of keep it even as the year goes on.

Tim: Mid-season the Pirates added a few guys to Lynchburg, brought Chase d’Arnaud up, added Josh Harrison in July in a trade. How does that affect your play, having more middle infielders brought in?

Jordy: It’s good anytime. Anytime you bring in competition it makes everyone around you better. I think that’s what they want to do, and we’re loaded with talent, and it’s fun to be around all of those guys.

Tim: You’ll start the Florida Instructional League in a few weeks. What’s the number one thing you’ll be working on there?

Jordy: Just continue to improve everything. That’s what it is, is basically just an instructional league, and it’s for everybody to get superior instruction no matter what. I think that you just continue to improve on every step of your game and you’ll be alright.

Tim: Any specific focus on any part of your game?

Jordy: Not really. Just go out there and learn new things everyday like they say, and just take it in to my game one step at a time.

Tim: You’ve played both third base and shortstop. What do you feel is your strongest position?

Jordy: Shortstop, because I’ve played there all my life. If I was a third baseman, or I played third base all my life, I would say third, but since I played short all my life, short definitely.

Tim: What are your goals going in to next year?

Jordy: Just continue to improve. Continue to get at-bats, continue to play everyday. I think that all you can do is improve if you keep playing everyday and keep getting more at-bats with the wood bat, and just see how it goes from there.

Tim: How has the adjustment gone from metal bats in college to wood bats in the pros?

Jordy: It was a big difference, it really was. Took awhile to get used to it, but the more at-bats I’m getting, the more time I’m playing, it’s just starting to get easier for me.

As far as numbers go, Mercer’s stats wouldn’t lead you to believe that he was lighting up the pitching in the Carolina League. A closer look says he might have been doing better than his final numbers suggest. Mercer started the season batting for a .236 average in 182 at-bats in his first two months. His K/BB ratio at this time was 30:15. You could chalk that up to adjusting to the level.

Mercer started to heat up in June, batting for a .274 average, but still struggled with the K/BB numbers, with a 24:7 ratio. He regressed in July, which makes sense when you consider what was going on with the team. The Pirates promoted Pedro Alvarez and Miles Durham to AA. Alvarez and Durham were two of the Hillcats top hitters, and two hitters who were hitting behind Mercer in the lineup.

Mercer rebounded in August and September, hitting for a .298 average in 121 at-bats, with a big improvement on his K/BB numbers, posting a 15:11 K/BB ratio in that time span. He also hit four home runs in that final stretch. The improvement makes sense, as Chase d’Arnaud not only returned returned to the top of the lineup, but Josh Harrison was added, with both players setting the table for Mercer every night.

Mercer is a tall, athletic shortstop. He’s bigger than most shortstops, but has the tools to make that work. He has good range, above-average instincts, and an arm good enough to be used in Oklahoma State as the closer, where he was throwing 95 MPH heat. On offense he has some good power for the position, but struggles with plate discipline, with his big weakness being a low, outside breaking ball.

I talked yesterday in the Matt Hague interview about how power is usually the last thing to develop for a prospect, and that doubles are a good indicator of future power. Mercer hit a lot of doubles, leading the Carolina League this season with 36 of them. He has great gap power right now, and could improve on that to eventually hit more than ten homers per season.

The big thing Mercer needs to work on is the plate discipline. He improved greatly on that in the final month of the season, although he still isn’t drawing a lot of walks, and one month isn’t enough to suggest that his strikeout woes are gone. Mercer, d’Arnaud, and Harrison should provide the Pirates with some tough decisions in the future, with three good middle infield prospects for two positions. Mercer has the talent and the arm strength to either move to third, or to right field. He’s been working at third in Lynchburg, although I doubt he moves from shortstop until it’s absolutely necessary. I could see the trio moved up to AA next year, which should raise an interesting question about what to do with Brian Friday.

tyle="font-style: italic;">Like this interview? Check back tomorrow for my interview with Jordy Mercer. Also, be sure to check out my previous interviews with Tony Sanchez, Rudy Owens, Bryan Morris, Justin Wilson, Matt Hague, and Hillcats’ manager P.J. Forbes.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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