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February 13, 2013 at 6:45 AM

2013 Prospect Previews: Jamie Callahan and Simon Mercedes

With Spring Training set to get under way, SoxProspects.com will be taking an in-depth look at many of the system's prospects with previews set for every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday leading up to Opening Day. The first installment of the series features two young arms beginning their development tracks in the lower levels of the system.

Position: Pitcher
2012 Team: Gulf Coast Red Sox
2013 Projected Team: Lowell Spinners
Opening Day Age: 18

Strengths: On the young side for a high school draftee entering the professional ranks, Callahan has a projectable frame that can fill out and put on good weight as he matures into his twenties. The fastball presently sits 90-92 mph, with downward movement through the strike zone when he is staying on top of the ball. Callahan’s heater has the ability to force opposing hitters to swing over the top of it and pound it into the ground due to the nature of its movement. His main secondary weapon presently is a 74-76 mph over-the-top curveball that shows both the type of depth and bite to get batters to commit to the offering early before realizing it is a breaking ball. There’s room for growth with the pitch as it has potential to round into a solid-average-to-plus pitch at his disposal as the righty matures. Because of his age and the fact that he is just learning to pitch, Callahan is the type of arm that can make big gains and take strong development strides once fully immersed in the professional ranks. While presently tough to nail down an exact path for the young pitcher, the early scouting looks showed an arm that has the overall package to track as a starting pitcher.

Development Needs: Presently, Callahan’s delivery is a bit on the jerky side and has some moving parts as he brings his arm into slot. There also isn’t a ton of explosion as he delivers the ball to home plate, though he is easy and free when creating velocity. Due to a lack of finish the fastball tends to stay elevated in the zone, where the pitch is on the straight and flat side. There’s some work to be done in the early career smoothing out his delivery and ironing out the rough edges. Callahan’s fastball command presently grades as below-average, with focus needed to finish the pitch better and spot up in the strike zone more easily. When Callahan gets off center with his landing, the curveball will lose some of the crispness and roll to the plate as well. The aforementioned strides forward with is delivery will allow the pitcher to become more consistent repeating his arm slot and turn the ball over more smoothly. There’s a good package of tools for a development staff to work with, but expect progress to take time gaining traction.

2013 Outlook: Due to his age and the fact that this right-handed pitcher is just beginning the journey into professional baseball, Callahan is likely to stay back in extended spring training when the teams head north and spend the 2013 season with the Lowell Spinners of the New York-Penn League. The focused instruction and time to ramp up before taking the hill in regular season game action should create an environment for him to initially work on his needs without the pressure of getting results. I see Callahan’s main early hurdle centered on his fastball command. He’ll be pushed to keep the ball down against hitters or he’ll run into stretches of giving up too much contact in 2013. Expect there to be some lead time for the pitcher to adjust and begin to learn the value of moving his fastball around the strike zone, rather than just trying to throw it past hitters. The development of a changeup is another key area to watch in 2013. This piece of his arsenal will be a necessary component when he takes the step up to full-season baseball and more instances of using the offering during the season is a good sign that Callahan is beginning to trust the pitch in the professional setting.

Position: Pitcher
2012 Team: Dominican Summer League
2013 Projected Team: Lowell Spinners
Opening Day Age: 21

Strengths: The main draw with Mercedes is his above-average arm strength. The right-hander has the type of arm to dial his heater up into the mid-90s, and it presently sits 91-94 mph when working as a starter in game action. Although Mercedes’ fastball doesn’t show much downward movement, he has life and finish at the end of the offering when he is driving through his delivery. The pitch will jump on opposing hitters, causing them to be late in picking it up. A large, imposing figure out on the mound, the righty has the type of frame and body to handle the rigors of pitching as a professional. Mercedes is very strong overall, with the legs and trunk to create optimal drive and tap into for velocity, taking the pressure off of his arm in the process. Besides featuring a fastball, the pitcher also works an 80-82 mph curveball into sequences. Mercedes shows the ability to both spin and keep his wrist on top of the offering, creating tight rotation and deep break. The pitch may evolve into a slider as the soon to be 21 year-old further matures with his craft, but currently shows the making of a solid-average-to-better breaking ball.

Development Needs: Listed at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, Mercedes appears to be a bit larger and doesn’t project to fill out much more. The righty will need to be cognizant of staying within his body and has the type that is going to have to be watched from gaining too much weight into his mid-to-late twenties. Although Mercedes is powerful in the lower body, he presently throws too much with his arm and has yet to learn how to fully tap into his lower body when creating velocity. While unrestricted as he brings his arm into slot, there’s more he can get on his fastball to push it into the over-powering category as his overall physical profile suggests. The lack of crispness also suppresses his command, presently grading as fringe-average and needing work to throw more quality strikes as the level of competition ramps up. Mercedes has begun to experiment with a changeup, but is presently raw like many other aspects of his game. The offering approaches home plate at 85-87 mph with little depth. Mercedes falls into the habit, like a lot of young arms just beginning to throw the pitch, of slowing down his arm speed when delivering the pitch, which tips it off and prevents him from turning it over with fade.

2013 Outlook: Although turning 21 in February, Mercedes has yet to pitch in the United States. An invitation to this past Fall Instructional League is a good sign that the big righty will make his stateside debut in 2013. Given where he currently is and the amount of rough edges in his game, he’s likely headed for a short-season assignment with the Lowell Spinners when their season gets underway in June. Mercedes’ main goal of 2013 will be to first and foremost throw strikes. The right-handed pitcher has a lot in the way of talent, but his execution will strongly be tested. The more inexperienced hitters can be overmatched by his fastball and curveball combination, if he is pounding the strike zone frequently. The time in extended spring training can also serve as a chance for Mercedes to loosen up his delivery more and work on incorporating his lower body fully into his mechanics. Progress here in 2013 may be an early indication as to whether he’ll stick on the starter’s path or profile more as a reliever as he gets deeper into his professional career. I don’t expect huge strides from Mercedes this season, but do see him as an arm that can begin to gain traction in the scouting community when his talent is on display during the year.

Photo Credits: Jamie Callahan by William Parmeter; Simon Mercedes by SoxProspects, LLC.

Chris Mellen is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMellen