The Bad: Whitley David Merrifield
The Stats: .288/.323/.464 (.787 OPS/104 OPS+); seven home runs, 32 RBI, 1.3 fWAR
The Case: I don’t think Whit is a terrific leadoff hitter just because he’s better than Alcides Escobar; that’s akin to deciding polka music is good just because it’s not EDM. Whit is hitting .229 as a leadoff man in 36 games, with four walks—an embarrassingly low number for a leadoff hitter. Some people like having a lucky rabbit’s foot in the leadoff role; I’d rather have somebody that’s a good fit. I’d say we’re arguing semantics, but you’re wrong and I’m right and that’s just how it is.
I do not say this to crap on Whit, who has proven himself to be a clutch hitter of the highest order and someone I’d want on my team any day—he’s just being used wrong. Ned Yost doesn’t have many options for the leadoff role, and Whit is the best bad option he’s got. So be it.
Having said all that, look at the above numbers. They’re more than respectable for a middle infielder. He’s seventh in fWAR among AL second baseman, despite playing in fewer games than all but one (Ian Kinsler) and despite being the only one of the seven aside from Robinson Cano with Offensive (Off) and Defensive (Def) Runs Above Average.
I’m just saying. There’s a path to “Whit Merrifield, All-Star”. Even I think it sounds a little ridiculous.
Anybody Have His Spot Who Shouldn’t? A quick look at our AL middle infielders reveals two Houston Astros in Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa who will likely make every All-Star team until they don’t feel like it anymore. That’s out. Francisco Lindor is an actual warlock, so he’s probably good. Schoop we discussed. Castro we discussed. This is… probably correct, unfortunately. Stacked field this year. Cano sitting at home really sends a message.
How Robbed Should He Feel? 2.5 out of 10. Whit just started getting regular playing time for the Kansas City Royals two months ago. Hopefully this is the start, not the pinnacle. That said, if Cano already has All-Star break plans and a couple of infielders pull out…