Who is Michael Mercado, the Phillies' latest call-up?

Full of potential, the right-hander's high velocity and versatility could benefit the Phillies bullpen.
Philadelphia Phillies Photo Day
Philadelphia Phillies Photo Day / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

The offseason heading into the 2024 campaign was somewhat quiet for the Philadelphia Phillies. Other than re-signing Aaron Nola and extending Zack Wheeler, many other moves the club made to bolster their pitching depth were peripheral pieces.

One of the more interesting moves that the club made was the addition of Michael Mercado via a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. The right-hander has been used as both a starter and reliever and has shown some real promise over his last two minor league seasons. With a fastball that can reach 98 mph and a solid cutter and curveball, the Phillies believe he has a good enough arm to make an impact.

Now, he will get a shot in the big leagues. He was called up to take Taijuan Walker's place on the 26-man roster while the veteran sits on the injured list.

Who is Michael Mercado, the Phillies' latest call-up?

The 25-year-old was a second-round pick of the Rays in 2017. At the time of being drafted, he was considered a Top 100 prospect. He ran into some injury trouble and underwent Tommy John surgery in 2019, missing that season and the shortened 2020 season.

He returned to the mound in 2021 and was used in both starting and relief roles in the Tampa Bay farm system. When the Phillies acquired him, they were betting on his potential power arm to help the major league club. He was added to the 40-man roster and appeared in five spring training games with the team.

Now ranked No. 30 in the Phillies prospect system, Mercado showed glimpses of potential this past spring. His first outing was one to forget as he allowed three earned runs in 2/3 of an inning. In his subsequent four appearances, he posted a 1.80 ERA and struck out nine hitters in five innings of work. He was optioned to Triple-A in March and has since made a good impression.

Like his time in the Rays organization, Mercado has been used in relief and as a starter with Lehigh Valley. In four relief appearances, he held opponents scoreless over 6 1/3 innings while striking out five batters. During that short span, he held opposing hitters to a .174 average, however, he did allow three free passes.

For the last several weeks, the bulk of his work has come in the rotation. While in this role, Mercado had a 1.98 ERA over 41 innings while maintaining a strikeout rate of just under a strikeout an inning. His overall numbers in Triple-A were impressive enough to get the attention of the Phillies, and he was recalled this past weekend.

“I was a little speechless,” Mercado said on his first day with the team, per The Philadelphia Inquirer's Lochlahn March. “It’s been a long time. And I know that I deserve it. But you’re never really ready for it. And I’ve been surrounded by so many good teammates and coaches over the years and my family has been super supportive. So it’s just really exciting.”

When Walker hit the injured list, the team announced that Spencer Turnbull would move back to the starting rotation. This indicates that Mercado will be used in Turnbull's relief role. He is versatile and stretched out enough to go multiple innings, or he can go short-relief and fire his high-90s fastball.

At this point, it's unclear how long Walker will be sidelined, so Mercado's time in Philadelphia may be limited. However, after a long journey he's finally getting his shot at making his big-league debut, and he will try to force the Phillies to keep him there.