Chicago White Sox designated hitter has played a vital role in the team’s first-place performance through the first few months of the season. Mercedes, who had a historic start to his MLB career to start the season, has struggled as the season has progressed. With other White Sox players providing quality extra-base hits with others slated to return from the injured list, Chicago may move on from their popular DH faster than expected.



Mercedes Sole Value Has Diminished Over The Last Few Weeks

Mercedes’ hot start to begin the 2021 season was something the White Sox desperately needed to fill the void created by outfielder Eloy Jimenez’s pectoral tear. The 28-year old rookie set an MLB record by recording eight consecutive hits to start his career, including two doubles and a home run. Mercedes was the White Sox best hitter in April as he batted over .400 while hitting five home runs. Since April, his numbers have steadily declined as his batting average has dropped over 100 points, and he has only driven in 10 RBIs since May 12th.

The struggle comes as the rest of the White Sox lineup is heating up, especially other role players, including first baseman Jake Lamb and outfielder Billy Hamilton. Since May 12th, both Lamb and Hamilton have either the same amount or more home runs and extra-base hits than Mercedes. Furthermore, the first baseman and outfielder currently hold more value from a roster standpoint as their speed and defensive versatility makes them more vital to the White Sox.

General manager Rick Hahn and manager Tony la Russa have some very important roster decisions to make in the next couple of weeks. Outfielder Adam Engel is expected to make his season debut soon after being sidelined since spring training with a hamstring injury. Although infielder Danny Mendick will likely be sent to Triple-A to make room for Engel, Mercedes may be a potential name discussed due to his recent struggles and his extremely limited ability to play defensively. Mendick and Lamb have both demonstrated an ability to play both infield and outfielder over the last few weeks due to injuries to the White Sox.

Without being a threat in the middle of the lineup, Mercedes holds no value on the White Sox roster. The home runs and doubles that Mercedes provided in April are now virtually gone as he has only two home runs and one double since May 11th. If moved to the bench, he would not be of any use as a late-inning defensive replacement or a pinch-runner, something that each other bench player on the current roster can provide.

The White Sox Have Options While Mercedes Does Not

Mercedes’ struggles come at the worst possible time for him as not only are others on the White Sox roster succeeding, but they also have players succeeding at Triple-A Charlotte. First baseman Gavin Sheets is batting over .300 and has four home runs, while third baseman and former first-round pick Jake Burger has ten home runs in 79 at-bats. With Engel’s return and the White Sox lineup heating up in recent weeks, the team may part ways with Mercedes in favor of a short-term solution until Jimenez returns.

Jimenez could return as early as late July, which would force the White Sox to potentially rely on Lamb, Burger, and or Sheets at the DH spot if the team were to demote or designate Mercedes for assignment. All three players hold a higher value than the current DH as two of the three potential replacements are power-hitting left-handed bats, while Burger is a highly touted first-round pick returning from a near career-ending Achilles injury.

Mercedes’ home run controversy against the Minnesota Twins could also make Hahn and La Russa’s decision easier if they chose to part ways with the slugger. Following the May 17th home run, the DH only further heightened the controversy by stating he did nothing wrong, despite ignoring a take signal on a 3-0 count. Although many believe La Russa was angry about homering off a position player in a 15-4 game, it was Mercedes’ ignoring the take sign from third base coach Joe McEwing that the manager stated was the real issue.

Unfortunately, the DH isn’t a proven star like Tim Anderson, Jose Abreu, and Yoan Moncada, all of whom could not just ignore a take sign but also have the clout to speak about having differences with the manager to the media. Mercedes is similar to Daniel Palka and Nicky Delmonico, who were players that found short-term success with the White Sox but faded in the long run. Palka and Demonico received extended chances to recover from their struggles due to Chicago’s rebuild, something that can’t be afforded to Chicago’s current DH.

Mercedes has been one of the best feel-good stories for the White Sox this season due to all of the significant injuries the team has suffered early on this season. Whether having his bat end up in Cooperstown or the popularity with the “Yerminator” nickname and shirt, the 28-year old DH made the most of his major league debut. Mercedes’ recent struggles have put a damper on all of it, and without an explosive turnaround at the plate soon, the White Sox could be moving from him very soon.

Steve Pusch
Eastern Illinois University graduate, Steve earned a Bachelor’s in Journalism with a concentration in sports. While at EIU, Steve co-hosted a weekly radio sports talk show focused on Chicago.