While Oscar Mercado keeps growing, he's hoping that he's filling out to be a well-groomed shortstop for the Johnson City Cardinals.
Ranked as the Cardinals' No. 13 prospect, he was their second-round pick a year ago and is now focused on making a smooth climb in the organization. In many ways, each of his steps is monitored because his footwork is something he's trying to perfect in the field.
"My favorite player is Derek Jeter, and I try to model my game after him," Mercado said. "And he's pretty tall."
Mercado, 19, is listed at 6-foot-2, and that makes him the third-tallest position player on the Johnson City roster. He'd like to stand out for more than his height.
"I think I can do a little bit of everything," he said.
Johnson City manager Johnny Rodriguez agrees, saying at this stage that part of Mercado's development is connected to the ability to adjust to a growing body.
"You've seen some guys who can do that, who are very athletic to be that tall," Rodriguez said. "Because of his height, he has to work harder than some of the other guys."
Mercado is bound to make some flashy plays in the field, and now there's a matter of making all the plays with the glove on a consistent basis. He's also trying to get into a groove at the plate -- with three multi-hit games during a recent six-game stretch perhaps signaling an upgrade there as well.
"He's like a young player who would be a sophomore in college," Rodriguez said. "He's learning to make adjustments."
Mercado, a Tampa native who committed to Florida State before taking the professional route, said the game speeds up at times and he's trying to put it all together. He said he's understanding that talent is widespread across opponents' lineups, and that takes a commitment to be ready in every situation.
"Just a lot more guys in the lineup who can run," Mercado said. "One through nine, guys can show off some power and speed."
Mercado went through a 42-game introduction a year ago in the Gulf Coast League. He said he put his sights on making a full-season roster in 2014. When that didn't happen, he said he was more determined to make improvements during extended spring training.
He said he's intent on making sure he's ready to take the next step when that opportunity arises. He also said he's aware that there's a process to go through, and he's willing to put in the work to make the most of each of his stops.
"I didn't know where I was going to go," Mercado said of the latest assignment. "It's a matter of performance and winning games."
Mighty 'pen: The Braves' bullpen has gone eight consecutive games through July 22 without giving up a run, a streak that covers 30 innings and includes three Danville shutouts. "I don't care where you are, that's hard to do," manager Randy Ingle said of the relievers' work. "They've been doing it, and they've all been pitching."
Calm down: The benches cleared in the eighth inning of an eventual 11-inning matchup between the Pulaski and Bristol after the Mariners' Estarlyn Morales bumped into catcher Chris Harvey while being thrown out at the plate. "I think it was a little misunderstanding," Pulaski outfielder Wayne Taylor, who hit a go-ahead home run in the 11th, told the Bristol Herald Courier. "I think our guy was trying to get out of the way of the tag and it was kind of a weird little interaction. Just a misunderstanding that got overblown."
Don't cramp his style: It took three pro seasons for Niklas Stephenson to notch his first career victory, so a leg cramp wasn't going to deter the Burlington right-hander at Danville. He made it through five scoreless innings and ended up with the win. "I couldn't stop cramping," Stephenson said, "[but] it's an awesome feeling."