The Cleveland Indians have an ongoing competition in center field.
Oscar Mercado has now been removed from the competition after being demoted to the minors.
Indians manager Terry Francona said they are sending Oscar Mercado to the depth camp.
— Mandy Bell (@MandyBell02) March 21, 2021
This is not a shocking move, but is still disappointing given the fact he played 115 games in 2019.
Then came 2020 when Mercado slashed .128/.174/.348 in 36 games.
His -0.4 WAR could have been chalked up to the difficulty of playing during the shortened 2020 season.
Then he slashed .214/.241/.286 in limited action this spring and was ultimately demoted.
Mercado Dealing With a Frustrating Start
This was not the plan Mercado or the team had in mind when the outfielder was acquired in a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals back in 2018.
He showed up and got a chance to prove himself in 2019.
A 1.1 WAR and an eighth-place finish in American League Rookie of the Year voting was a great start.
However, he did not look the same in 2020 and clearly there is too much concern surrounding his offense to even keep him in the competition at this point in spring training.
#Indians sending CF Oscar Mercado to minors. "Nobody's giving up on him," manager Terry Francona said.
— Tom Withers (@twithersAP) March 21, 2021
Mercado is 26 years old and still has a shot to win his starting job back at some point.
The key now is for him to get his confidence back and return to his 2019 ways at the plate.
He was able to hit 15 home runs that year and also added 25 doubles.
But last year he had one double and one home run.
2020 can be chalked up as a bit of a wash for plenty of players and Mercado may just need some more time in the minors to get his swing back.
That could mean it takes a month or it could also mean he never gets there.
The Ongoing Competition in Center
Mercado seemed like a favorite to win the job.
Until he wasn’t.
Zimmer should be the favorite, but the fact there is still a competition proves that may not be the case.
Rosario even getting any time out there is a bit of a concerning sign, especially after his three-error debut.
Fans must remember that Mercado should not be counted out for the rest of the year.
The Indians just want him to get his confidence back because everyone knows he has the defensive abilities to man center for an entire season.
At this point it is tough to guess who will win the job.
Zimmer has the natural ability on defense, but the team may not want to move on from Gamel just yet.
Rosario also needs a spot if he isn’t going to be traded.
This is, unfortunately, a position that could be in flux for the Indians all season.
Hopefully, Mercado can figure out his struggles at the plate and win back the job that was his just two years ago.