The Cleveland Indians had a major question in center field this spring.
But then Mercado was sent to the minors, followed by Zimmer.
So what is next for both Mercado and Zimmer?
Cleveland roster decisions:
Jake Bauers will be the Opening Day first baseman.
Oliver Pérez and Yu Chang have made the Opening Day roster.
Bradley Zimmer, Blake Parker, Anthony Gose, Kyle Nelson and Bobby Bradley did not make the Opening Day roster.
— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) March 26, 2021
Mercado Needs His Confidence Back
Mercado debuted with the Indians in 2019 and finished eighth in American League Rookie of the Year voting.
Then came a brutal 2020 season, even in a shortened year.
Mercado slashed .128/.174/.174 in 36 games en route to a -0.4 WAR.
His chance in 2019 came thanks to Zimmer being out for nearly the entire season.
2020 could have been a year to permanently land the starting job and force the Indians to move on from Zimmer.
Instead, further questions remain in 2021.
Mercado is still only 26 years old and should remain an option for the future.
However, that could change now that other players are ahead of him at the position.
Zimmer is in a Weird Spot
Tribe manager Terry Francona on today's roster decision involving Bradley Zimmer being sent to the club's alternate training site at the outset of the season. pic.twitter.com/SeNr5Kiuxm
— Indians Baseball Insider (@Official_IBI) March 26, 2021
What are the Indians going to do with Zimmer?
The 28-year-old has never played a full season with the Indians and has appeared in a total of 63 games from 2018-2020.
The athletic outfielder posted a 1.7 WAR in 2017 and the future was bright.
But he could just never stay healthy and several injuries have derailed his career to this point.
Zimmer had 31 at-bats in spring training and clearly did not show enough to warrant a roster spot.
That is a concerning sign considering the competition included a converted shortstop and an outfielder who has rarely played in center.
Zimmer is now approaching an age where it may not make much sense to give him time in Triple-A.
Mercado should be getting a majority of the reps and even Daniel Johnson could factor in as well.
Are the Indians really going to have Mercado and Zimmer split time in center in Columbus?
One possibility is seeking a trade for one of the two before the start of the minor league season in May.
Or, they could just stay patient and keep trying both out in center.
The latter seems unlikely, especially for Zimmer.
Sometimes top prospects don’t pan out.
The Indians just moved on from Tyler Naquin this past offseason and Zimmer could follow a similar route.
Mercado may have another year or two of time on his side.