By Jason Shetler
Jordy Mercer took over as the Pirates everyday shortstop in the second half of the 2013 season. After struggling for much of the first half in 2014, he turned things around after the All-Star break, posting a .753 OPS. Mercer scuffled at the plate for much of the 2015 season, which begs the question if he should be the Pirates everyday shortstop for 2016.
During his time in the big leagues, Mercer has posted a .643 OPS vs right-handed pitching. He does however perform well vs left-handers, as he’s put up an .864 OPS against them, so it’s not as if he doesn’t do well at all offensively. While Mercer’s performance at the plate overall may not be as consistent as some would like it to be, his defense is more than good enough to play on a regular basis. Since 2014, Mercer has posted a .984 fielding percentage at short, which is 10% above league average, and has a 1.0 dWAR. Prior to this year, he was considered the sixth best defensive shortstop in all of baseball.
Mercer will be arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason. His projected salary figure will be at $1.8 million, which is very reasonable given that his defensive value alone is worth that amount. The Pirates overall were not a good team defensively in 2015 with the exception of Mercer, Starling Marte and Jung-Ho Kang as a third baseman. To be honest, it’s quite remarkable the Pirates were able to win 98 games despite the inconsistencies they had on the defensive side. While pitching has obviously been the key to the Pirates contending each of the last three seasons, the defense will need to play better, and that means Mercer anchoring shortstop again next season.