By Jeff Odom
Two of the area’s most prolific high school baseball players are skipping college to make the jump to the big leagues after signing with their respective teams.
Gaither’s Oscar Mercado and Wharton’s Tucker Neuhaus each inked deals after being selected in the second round of the 2013 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on June 6.
Mercado, a shortstop, who had committed to play at Florida State University last November, signed with the St. Louis Cardinals for $1.5 million after the organization drafted him with the 57th pick in the second round. The contract is worth nearly $530,000 more than the slot value for that pick, which is $971,400.
Cardinals scouting director Dan Kantrovitz told MLB.com after the draft that the organization believes it can mold Mercado into a Gold Glove caliber defender and work with him on his offensive production after he hit just .290 with the Cowboys last season.
“We think Oscar is going to surprise some people with the bat. But at the same time, we’re going to have to be patient with him,” Kantrovitz said. “He’s not a guy that we are going to expect to fly through the system. He’s a young high school player that we’re going to take our time with and groom, and hopefully he develops at the pace we think he’s going to.”
Mercado is expected to join the Cardinals’ rookie team in the Gulf Coast League, which opens its season June 21 against the GCL Marlins in Jupiter.
Neuhaus, a shortstop, opted to forego his scholarship with the University of Louisville and signed with the Milwaukee Brewers for $771,000, plus an extra $64,000 to compensate him for opting out of the commitment.
The Brewers took Neuhaus with the 72nd pick in the second round. He told The Laker/Lutz News after he was selected that he is excited to join an organization he calls one of the best in baseball.
“I think it’s going to be whatever a kid dreams about,” Neuhaus said. “Playing in the big leagues in front of a big crowd, and it’ll be even cooler playing for the Brewers, because I grew up a (Chicago) Cubs fan and all my family is Cubs fans and that’s the rival. Now, that’s going to be funny playing against them and my family will be there, and already I’ve just been welcomed into the Brewer family with hundreds of fans reaching out to me.”
Neuhaus will also join Milwaukee’s rookie squad, the AZL Brewers, which plays in the Arizona League.
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