1) Whit Merrifield Facing His First Big Challenge
Whit Merrifield’s first mini-slump continued on Tuesday when he went 0-5 with two strikeouts against the Cardinals. He’s hit a mere 2-14 with eight strikeouts over his last three games, which is now the first rough patch of his major-league career after an almost idyllic six weeks.
Tuesday’s game snapped Merrifield’s 18-game string of reaching base at Kauffman Stadium. Merrifield has given KC Royals fans hope that the team has found their first true lead-off hitter in years, if he can respond to the adjustments pitchers have made against him.
Merrifield’s performance over the next few weeks will likely determine if his debut is for real, or simply a hot streak. At this point, his floor seems to be as a useful utility player that can play plus defense at every position except catcher. For him to establish himself as a major-league regular, Merrifield will have to show he’s got the bat to hold down an everyday job.
For Merrifield to remain an asset as a lead-off hitter, he needs to show he can post OBP over .340 for the long term. I wish I had a read on the expected outcome of this little drama, but I can’t really say I have any idea how it will play out. I guess that’s why they play the games, to paraphrase ESPN announcer Chris Berman’s famous tag line.