Jody Mercer turned heads last year when he emerged as the guy who could become the Pittsburgh Pirates’ starting shortstop.
The Taloga, Oklahoma native had a good spring training last season but failed to make the big league squad. Mercer got a second chance later in the year with the Pirates and made the most of it.
Pittsburgh was in a dog fight for the NL Central title and Mercer became the Pirates’ everyday shortstop. He was doing well at the plate and seemed like the future shortstop for the Buccos.
However, September came and Mercer made some crucial errors in the field that allowed Clint Barmes to slip back in to the starting role.
In the ninth inning against the Cincinnati Reds, the 27-year-old threw the ball into the stands on a routine grounder to the left side. The error was the start of the rally for the Reds, and Pittsburgh fell in extra innings.
That left some people wondering about Mercer’s fielding abilities. Those questions still linger, leaving fans wondering if he can succeed as the Pirates everyday middle infielder.
Barmes re-signed over the winter as Mercer’s back up, which means the Pirates have faith in him but they have a fallback plan.
Barmes’ defense is superb, but he batted .221 in two seasons with Pittsburgh. Mercer’s bat is much better. He batted .285 with 8 home runs and 27 RBIs last season in 103 games.
When spring training opened last week, Mercer was among the first position players to arrive and was prepared for the job.