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Introducing: Matt Mercer

With the 159th pick of the 2018 first-year player draft, the Diamondbacks selected Matt Mercer, a right-handed pitcher from the University of Oregon.

Date of Birth: 1 September 1996

Height: 6’ 2”

Weight: 180 lbs.

Mercer is the 30th Pitcher chosen since the return of baseball to the University of Oregon in 2009. Of late, Oregon Ducks Pitchers have made a name for themselves and are starting to make some noise at the Professional Level. Last year, David Peterson was selected in the first round. Colorado Rockies starter, Tyler Anderson is a former Duck and is starting to settle into the role, despite some early growing pains. Fans of the Diamondbacks should also be familiar with another standout Duck, Jimmie Sherfy. The former Oregon closser was selected by the Diamondbacks in the 10th round of the 2013 draft.

What Baseball America has to say:

Mercer has been a mainstay in the Oregon weekend rotation the last two seasons, compiling a 12-14, 3.55 career record with 155 strikeouts and 72 walks through 200.1 career innings while also impressing in the Cape Cod League last summer. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound right-hander has built up velocity through his work with the Driveline Baseball training program. Scouts have had his fastball as high as 98 mph this spring, though he sits more comfortably in the low to mid-90s. Mercer generates that velocity through a violent, high-effort delivery that he sometimes struggles to repeat, which leads some evaluators to believe he’ll end up as a reliever long term. He pairs that fastball with a low-80s breaking ball that has flashed plus when he’s consistent with his release point. Mercer exhibits confidence in his mid-80s, split-like changeup, which he uses liberally to both left-handed and right-handed hitters--at times burying it down and in against righties as an out-pitch. That three-pitch mix gives Mercer an appealing starter’s arsenal, but he’ll need to prove he can repeat his effortful delivery--and stay healthy--to stay out of the bullpen at the next level.

What MLB has to say:

Undrafted out of high school because he had Tommy John surgery, Mercer pitched largely in relief as a freshman at Oregon, then moved into the weekend rotation behind 2017 first-rounder David Peterson. A strong Cape Cod League showing last summer catapulted him into the Friday night role for the Ducks, where he’s had a bit of an up-and-down season. At his best, Mercer stands out with his arm strength and power arsenal. His fastball will typically sit around 92-93 mph, but he can reach back for more, flashing a plus 97-mph heater at times, both on the Cape and occasionally this spring, and he does maintain his velocity throughout starts. His secondary stuff, however, has backed up some. In the past, he’d show a short, quick, deep breaking ball with late break at the plate. It’s been more of a slurvy pitch this spring with more of a loopy break to it, leading to hitters laying off of it and sitting on what is a largely true fastball. He has a changeup, but doesn’t throw it much. While he does largely throw strikes, Mercer needs to refine his command within the zone. That, plus some effort in his delivery, has some scouts predicting a future in the bullpen, though with his ability to maintain his fastball, he could get the opportunity to start at the outset of his pro career.

It seems unlikely that the Diamondbacks would select Mercer so early in the draft if they were not at least going to give him a shot to prove he can be a starter. With 88 23 innings already in the book on the year, chances are he won’t be pitching again until next season, though the team could look to get him some light work in short-season ball later this summer.

If the Diamondbacks decide to not meddle too much with something that will require significant refining, they could elect to use him as a power reliever, one with two pitches that have plenty of swing and miss in them, including a 98 mph heater. In this scenario, Mercer could work his way through the system very quickly, seeing AA-Jackson as soon as late-2019 should he make the necessary adjustments.

Mercer’s clot bonus is slated at $314,800. This sort of bonus is more reason to believe that the Diamondbacks will give Mercer every possible chance to stick as a starter. He does not come with any signability concerns and should be an easy addition to the organization.