Kansas City Royals’ Whit Merrifield: Baseball’s Newest Super Utility Man
By Alex Duvall
The legend of “2-Hit Whit” was born during the Kansas City Royals’ 2016 season. As Whit Merrifield made his MLB debut, he proceeded to destroy major league pitchers for half a season.
Some would describe Whit Merrifield as a legend, something of Kansas City Royals folklore. Like their favorite Bo Jackson story. He’s been described as Babe Ruth reincarnated. He has single handedly won games in the MLB.
He almost caught Joe DiMaggio‘s hit streak record. He’s done things that no other player has ever done before. Including recording two hits in every single MLB game that he’s played.
Alright, alright, fine. He’s not Babe Ruth. He’s had his share of struggles in the big leagues and apparently didn’t prove himself enough to make the Opening Day roster in 2017. Instead, the Royals rolled the dice on rookie Raul Mondesi Jr. in hopes that Mondesi could provide some spark in the Royals lineup. Oops.
Since being recalled on April 18, the Royals 13th game on the season, all Whit Merrifield has done for this team is stabilize the leadoff spot in the lineup. He also carries the team’s fourth best OPS. Whit has arguably been the Royals most clutch hitter this season.
He went on a 19-game hitting streak at one point. He gives Ned Yost the ability to rest guys like Jorge Bonifacio, Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain by playing the outfield. Just as well as he does 2B.
The success that Whit Merrifield has had this season as had me scrambling to find an MLB comp for him. Whit contains a set of skills that not many in this league contain. He has more than proved his worth to this Kansas City Royals team on the field this year.
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Whit’s ability to play four positions at a better than average ability has brought to mind three names that he’s earned the right to be compared to: the Dodgers’ Chris Taylor, Pirates’ Josh Harrison, and Cubs’ Ben Zobrist.
Josh Harrison broke on to the scene in 2014 when he played in 143 games for the Pirates at a number of different positions. He hit .315 with 13 HR and 18 SB. That’s been by-and-large Harrison’s best season. It got him some well deserved recognition as being baseball’s next Ben Zobrist.
This year, Harrison’s play earned him a spot on the NL All-Star Team. Harrison’s numbers to date look like this: .
.277/.355/.432/.787 with 11 HR and 10 SB
Zobrist’s best season, back in ’09, looked like this:
.297/.405/.543/.948 with 27 HR and 17 SB
Chris Taylor in his breakout season has put up these numbers:
.312/.382/.535/.918 with 12 HR and 12 SB
Here’s how our very own Whit Merrifield compares:
.293/.337/.489/.826 with 10 HR and 16 SB
Whit Merrifield has proven himself to be extremely worthy of being mentioned among the ranks of baseball’s best everyday utility men. He currently ranks sixth in the MLB in WAR for the month of July. He has been the spark plug in a Royals offense that desperately needed it.
His value on the defensive side of the ball has fit right into the Royals mold of Gold Glove worthy fielders. His speed and tenacity on the base paths reminds me of the Royals team in 2015.
While Whit Merrifield doesn’t get the national attention that guys like Taylor, Zobrist, and Harrison get, his name has resonated well with Kansas City Royals fans. He’s a hit among fans of all ages for the way he plays the game.
His ability to change the game has sprung Kansas City into not only a Wild Card spot, but a chance to once again win the AL Central. Merrifield probably won’t find himself on any team MVP ballots at the end of the season, but he strongly deserves to have his name in the conversation.
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Here’s to you, Whitley. Thanks for helping make this season one more to remember.