For many KC Royals fans, it may be odd to think that their favorite utility player needs a resurgence. He was good in 2020 but could be even better in 2021.
The KC Royals are ready to win now, it’s obvious. They have been much more active so far during the offseason, and GM Dayton Moore has been telling everyone for months that the plan is to be better and win more games in 2021.
It’s nice to see that this team is sticking by their word and bringing in new players to help the team progress. The existing players, though, will also have to do their part. Players like Adalberto Mondesi need to prove that they have what it takes to stick in the majors.
Typically, when thinking of players like this, one might not jump to Whit Merrifield. Merrifield is one of the few Royals who has consistently provided good seasons over the past few years and has carried a lot of the weight on his own shoulders.
It is not being suggested that Merrifield needs to prove himself in 2021, or that he needs to step his game up. He batted over .300 in 2018 and 2019 and led the majors in multiple categories over those two seasons.
What Merrifield might be able to do in 2021, though, is find a bit of a bounce back. Saying that Merrifield slashed .282/.252/.440 with an OPS of .764 sounds like he had a good year, and in all seriousness, he did. Compared to past seasons though, for Merrifield, it was a year of some regression.
In 2019, for example, he slashed .302/.348/.463 with an OPS of .811. Of course, the sample size for 2020 is much smaller, but Merrifled saw slumps during the season, which is unusual for him. His walk to strikeout ratio remained about the same, but the hits just didn’t fall as easily as they had in the past.
2021 may provide the utility player a reset, though. For the past few seasons, Merrifield has been the guy to get the team on track. He would get the Royals out of a jam, get on base, get the hit, whatever was needed.
In 2021, some of that weight may be taken off of him and spread around. Salvador Perez will hopefully continue the success he saw in 2020, and Mondesi will hopefully do what he did at the end of 2020. But the addition of Carlos Santana and still a possible big outfield bat can relieve even more pressure.
Santana will join Merrifield as of the teams “get on base guys,” and any improvement to the offense will keep Merrifield from feeling as though he has to be the one drive in the runs.
Positions around the field are also looking to be more solidified. While he played a majority of 2020 in the outfield, Merrifield did see a split between both center and right field, and some games at second base.
With the Royals looking to have their lineup more set, Merrifield may finally get a chance to stick at one spot for most of a season. He has done well with moving around and being a top utility player, but even for someone like him, the constant movement could lead to inconsistencies at the plate.
Merrifield is not in need of a “bounce back” season in the traditional sense. He had a good 2020 season and was one of the best players the Royals ran out every day. A resurgence at the plate, though, is definitely in the cards.
The Royals want to win and be better. By adding some players to help, they as a team should improve, and a player like Merrifield may have a chance to regain his focus and put up even better numbers.
Whit Merrifield could see a resurgence in 2021 and put up even better numbers than he has in years past.