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Yermin Mercedes, Outfielder?

While it doesn't seem to be a fit, this unconventional experiment of trying Yermin Mercedes in the outfield could pay off for the White Sox.
Photo: Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights

Photo: Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights

Yermin Mercedes is approaching age 27, which is usually the last-straw season for prospects. The White Sox have a hole in their roster in right field since Nomar Mazara has not been able to hit left-handed pitching effectively throughout his career. Now, when it comes down to it, Mazara could easily play as he did in the second half of 2019 for an entire season. Reality would tell you that probably is not happening, however. When pondering solutions to the right-field situation, I recently opined that the White Sox should sign Hunter Pence as a platoon to Mazara. What happens, though, if the Sox do not add any depth in the outfield? What happens when someone gets injured? I made a joke on Twitter the other day about putting Mercedes in the outfield. Let's examine that possibility.

Nomar Mazara Already is a Bad Right Fielder

Nomar Mazara is going to be the starting right fielder on Opening Day, and Leury Garcia or Adam Engel may occasionally platoon against lefties in Mazara's place. However, as stated in the article about signing Pence, if you have enough power coming from your bat in right field, it offsets (or even outweighs) your defensive liability. This is the case for Yermin Mercedes. Mazara was in the 39th percentile in Outs Above Average, according to StatCast. He also posted a -8 for OAA in 2018. His outfield jump stats are not great either. Here is that graphic:

Statcast

Statcast

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As you can see his jumps, burst, and reaction time are all below average. Given Mercedes .361/.435/.680 across 146 MiLB games, maybe it's worth giving him the nod against lefties in the beginning part of the season.

Eloy Jimenez is a WORSE Fielder Than Nomar Mazara

Now, if you can't trust a catcher/first baseman in right field, I get it, especially when you are comparing the player to an Adam Eaton-type player who can add value both defensively and offensively. When Eloy Jimenez needs an off day or gets injured (hopefully not) because of his horrendous defense, you need a backup with some pop. Mercedes is your guy for the same reasoning as above with Nomar Mazara. Eloy is in the SECOND percentile in OAA, and his jump metrics are even worse than Mazara's:

Statcast

Statcast

Mercedes Brings Power

At the end of the day, this is the main component of the argument here. Mercedes can hit home runs. The 2018 Milwaukee Brewers made the playoffs with unorthodox fielding moves, such as rotating Mike Moustakas and Travis Shaw between third and second base. It does not necessarily matter where you put guys if they can offset their weaknesses by producing runs. I cannot stress this enough. People arguing that Moncada cannot move from third base now if the White Sox added another infielder via trade or free agency are simple-minded. Think outside of the box when it comes to constructing the best lineup possible from an overall production standpoint. It will create a better team.

Yermin Mercedes could easily join the MLB roster and put up a worse season than Daniel Palka in 2019. On the other hand, he could also be a surprising asset to the team. In order to fit his bat into the lineup, the White Sox need to give him a chance. He should be getting outfield reps because between first base, catcher, and DH, Jose Abreu, Yasmani Grandal, and James McCann seem to have that covered for the most part. Sure, it's abnormal, but that type of thinking brought you the Moneyball A's. Give Mercedes a test drive.