Right-hander Matt Mercer is the latest Oregon pitcher that is a well-regarded MLB Draft prospect.
Baseball America ranks Mercer as the 52nd-best prospect in June’s draft. Over the last two years, David Peterson, Matt Krook and Cole Irvin were Oregon left-handed pitchers that went in the first five rounds of the draft.
Peterson went in the first round, while Krook and Irvin were fourth- and fifth-round selections, respectively.
A 6-foot-1, 185-pound righty, Mercer impressed scouts in the prestigious Cape Cod League last summer when he recorded a 2.54 ERA with 31 strikeouts and nine walks in 30 2/3 innings.
But he hasn’t carried that success into his junior season with Oregon, as he’s posted a 4-5 record with a 3.62 ERA, 65 strikeouts and 30 walks in 72 innings (12 starts).
Averaging 3.8 walks per nine innings, Mercer said the pressure brought on by the draft is potentially a reason for his struggles.
“That has maybe played into it, I’m not going to lie,” he said. “But I played in the Cape (Cod League) last summer and pitched probably the best I have ever pitched.
“I look back on that summer and reflect on why I did so good and why I’m not doing as well this spring. Just my mentality was to go out there and pitch and have fun, and it wasn’t going out there to get 12 strikeouts and put zeros up. That’s something I have yet to make the adjustment this year. I’m just trying too hard.”
Mercer has a four-pitch mix, featuring a mid-90s fastball, changeup, curveball and slider.
His best off-speed pitch is his above-average changeup that displays slight movement and is an out pitch. His mid-80s slider and mid-70s curveball have potential but lack consistency.
While he has the ability to start in the professional ranks, his command and unorthodox delivery, which has effort to it, are concerns for scouts and could be reasons why he ends up as a reliever in the future.
He also underwent Tommy John surgery as a senior in high school four years ago.
“I’m competitive,” he said. “I don’t go into games looking at mechanics or stuff like that. I just think about whatever I can to get the hitter out and compete as much as I can.
“I think that’s something I’ve gotten away from this year. I’m trying to do too much instead of just going out there and having fun.”
Although he’s experienced mixed results this season, Mercer has time to turn it around with about a month until the draft begins on June 4.
Oregon is 22-23 this season and concludes the regular season against Arizona on May 26.
“I just need to go out there and not care as much,” Mercer said. “Just go out there and have some fun.
“As a team, we’re on track to make a push. We have a chance to do something special. Everything is in front of us. We just have to stay together and play like we know how to play. When we play like we can play, I don’t think there’s a lot of teams that can beat us.”