Mark Alan Merchant
- Bats Both, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 185 lb.
- High School Oviedo High School
Mark Merchant was one of the biggest busts ever in the amateur draft. He was taken second overall in the 1987 amateur draft, yet never played a game in the major leagues and barely spent any time in AAA. It was an even more glaring pick as he was taken one spot behind another center fielder, Ken Griffey Jr.. The Pittsburgh Pirates had taken Jeff King and Barry Bonds in prior years, focusing on college players, but the Merchant fiasco began a run of toolsy high school players who bombed, followed by the likes of Chad Hermansen, Austin Manahan, J.J. Davis and Charles Peterson later in the 80s and 90s.
High school and early pro career
Merchant had hit .419 as a high school senior, stealing 48 in 49 tries, and being named the Florida State Player of the Year. Merchant debuted with the '87 GCL Pirates, hitting .265/~.367/.352 and leading the Gulf Coast League in both steals (33) and times caught stealing (12). He made the league All-Star team and Baseball America ranked him as the top prospect in the circuit. Joining fellow prospects Moises Alou and Wes Chamberlain in the 1988 outfield of the Augusta Pirates, Mark hit only .242/~.370/.299 with 14 steals in 17 tries. He separated his shoulder on July 15, ending his season.
In the Seattle system
Mark began 1989 in good form at .322/~.394/.458 for Augusta, then was dealt on April 21 to the Seattle Mariners with Mike Dunne and Mike Walker for Rey Quinones and Bill Wilkinson. With the San Bernardino Spirit the rest of the year, he struggled at .210/~.308/.331, one year after Griffey had lit it up for the same club.
In 1990, Merchant saw very limited time, hitting .314/~.426/.461 in 29 games for San Bernardino and .179/~.251/.212 in his first look at AA. In '91, the 22-year-old outfielder split the year between the Peninsula Pilots (.252/~.371/.356) and the Jacksonville Suns (.282/~.367/.442). He spent the entire 1992 campaign with Jacksonville and batted .244/~.311/.375. His 13 homers were a career-best to that point but he only stole 3 bases in 5 tries.
Chugging along in Chattanooga
Now with the Cincinnati Reds system, Merchant produced at a .301/~.391/.500 rate for the '93 Chattanooga Lookouts and went 1 for 6 in his AAA debut with the Indianapolis Indians. He homered 17 times and stole at a sub-.500 rate. He was 8th in the Southern League in average and tied for 8th in home runs. In '94, Mark batted .310/.378/.410 for Chattanooga and would have ranked fifth in the SL in average had he qualified.
1995 was a busy year for Mark. He hit .208/~.300/.264 for the Lookouts, got a crack at the Mexican League with the Reynosa Broncos (.152/~.263/.303 in 9 games) and going to the land of washed-up players in the Northern League, joining the Sioux City Explorers. Merchant hit .318 and slugged .535 for the Explorers, primarily as a DH, and was 8th in the Northern League in average. In '96, Merchant returned to Organized Baseball with the Nashville Sounds and Omaha Royals, hitting a composite .245/~.347/.394 in his best AAA year. At age 28, he was 0 for 5 in two games for Omaha and hit .340/~.429/.585 for the Wichita Wranglers. In 1998, he concluded his career with a .254/?/.413 line with the Newburgh Black Diamonds.
He later became a real estate appraiser.
Sources: 1988-1999 Baseball Almanacs, 1989, 1991 and 1995 Baseball Guides, 1988 Pittsburgh Pirates Yearbook, The Mexican League: Comprehensive Player Statistics by Pedro Treto Cisneros, 21 Greatest Days blog