Gaither shortstop Oscar Mercado confirmed Wednesday that he has accepted a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, who drafted him 57th overall last week.
Mercado will choose a career in the minors over a scholarship offer from Florida State.
Mercado said in a text message to the Tampa Bay Times’ that he will sign for $1.5 million on Monday, then fly to St. Louis. The deal is valued at a half-million more than the assigned slot value for his pick, which is about $971,400.
Mercado was one of three players from Hillsborough County taken on Day 1 of the MLB first-year players draft. Durant pitcher Tyler
Danish (No. 55 to the Chicago White Sox) and Wharton shortstop Tucker Neuhaus (No. 72 to the Milwaukee Brewers) also were drafted.
But Mercado’s slide was probably the most notable development of the draft among local prospects.
He was projected as a potential first-rounder coming into the spring. Mercado certainly looked the part of a top pick, with his sleek build (6-foot-2, 180 pounds), sprinter’s speed and lauded defensive skills.
Then he had arguably his worst year in high school at the plate, hitting a career-low .286 with 14 RBIs. Mercado also struggled defensively, a surprise for someone with his reputation for blue-chip fielding skills.
Cardinals scouting director Dan Kantrovitz said the Cardinals weren’t dissuaded by Mercado’s sagging offensive production.
“Frankly we didn’t think Oscar was going to get to our pick at 57,” Kantrovitz told MLB.com. “When you see a shortstop of that caliber still on the board at 57, we weren’t going to walk away.”
Joel Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jdhometeam.