Kansas City Royals: What about Whitley Merrifield?
By Dylan Miles
Whit Merrifield burst onto the scene last season, quickly became a fan favorite and one of the better second basemen in the American League. How will he fare with the Kansas City Royals in 2018?
Whitley, or Whit, Merrifield has been nothing but a bright spot for Royals fans throughout the last year or two. In fact, it is crazy to think that Merrifield did not even make the 2017 Opening Day roster. Last year Raul (now Adalberto) Mondesi started over him at second base.
A ninth-round draft pick out of the University of South Carolina in 2010, Merrifield has bounced around the Kansas City farm system, making appearances in Double-A and Tiple-A along the way. Making his major league debut in May of 2016, Merrifield eventually took over at second base in replace of Omar Infante. Almost immediately, Whit made his way into the hearts of all Royals fans.
Grabbing 332 plate appearances in 2016, he hit .283/.323/.392 while knocked two home runs and recording 29 RBI in a rather disappointing Royals season. In 2017, however, Merrifield started to break out. Starting the season in Tiple-A, Merrifield was eventually called up after the struggling Mondesi was sent down for “service time.” The rest, as they say, is history.
In 630 plate appearances in 2017, Merrifield slashed .288/.324/.460 and had a power breakout. He had 57 extra base hits, 19 of which were home runs, while driving in 78 baserunners. He even led the American League with 34 stolen bases. With all of his success, fans gave him the nickname, “Two-Hit Whit.”
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So Now Whit?
The 2018 Royals are a rebuilding team, and the 2019 Royals will be too. So where can we find some comfort?
I say there is plenty to be hopeful for, especially with Whit Merrifield on the field. His mix of defensive skills, speed, and power potential make him an exciting spectacle on the field and a great Royals fan-favorite.
Seemingly overlooked due to the Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain signings as well as the trades made by the team, Merrifield shows no sign of backing down. He looks ready to build on what was a very impressive rookie season.
Baseball Reference predicts a .279/324/.435 slash with 14 home runs, 63 RBI, and 21 swiped bags. Personally, I see Merrifield improving on all of the projected numbers.
There is still plenty of competition at second base though. With Mondesi behind him, there is plenty of pressure to keep performing at his position.
All of this is not to mention his stellar defense. With a .981 fielding percentage at second base and the team’s second highest defensive wins above replacement (dWAR) at .9 (second only to Salvador Perez), he has quickly become a defensive star between the bags.
The Bottom Line
So, what is the takeaway from this? This season may not be the most fun for Royals fans as the team is projected to only win around 70 games. However, there are plenty of bright spots for Royals fans. The performance and off-the-field personality of Merrifield can most definitely one of the teams bright spots.
In 2017, Merrifield had the third highest overall wins above replacement with 3.9, just behind, you guessed it, Cain and Hosmer. With those two gone (*sniffle*), the Royals will look to guys like Merrifield to pick up the slack and bring together the new, younger, 2018 Royals.
So what do you think Royals fans? Is Whit Merrifield a future star for the Royals? Can he continue being a vital piece of the Royals organization? Let us know what you think!