Salvador Perez, once again the best bet for an All-Star Game berth the KC Royals have, entered the last couple of days of Phase 1 ASG fan voting with a chance to make the final phase. Because he stood in second place Tuesday, trailing only Baltimore backstop Adley Rutschman, he had a shot at finishing the first round as one of the top two vote-getters for American League starting catcher and moving on to a runoff against Rutschman for the coveted starting spot.
Unfortunately, Perez won't be in the Finals, the label now assigned by the new Basic Agreement to the former Phase 2—Texas' Jonah Heim moved past him to secure the right to face Rutcshman in the Finals. Fortunately, Perez should make the AL club as a reserve. And while he waits to see if he'll land his eighth All-Star selection, one former Royal remains in the running for a starting job.
Almost a full calendar year after the surprising trade via which the Royals moved him to Toronto for Samad Taylor and Max Castillo, Whit Merrifield is thriving as a Blue Jay and putting up numbers that might make him the AL's starting second baseman. His second-place Phase 1 finish pits him against Texas second-sacker Marcus Semien in the Finals.
The veteran former KC Royals utility man is having an excellent season
Merrifield's career appeared in decline as last year's trade deadline approached. The two-time All-Star who led the big league in hits in 2018 and 2019 and stole more bases than anyone in the majors in 2018 and more than any other American Leaguer the year before, found himself hitting under .200 as late as May 19, and was slashing an un-Merrifield-like .240/.290/.352 when the Royals overcame their historical reluctance to trade him and shipped him to the Blue Jays.
The move reinvigorated Merrifield's bat: he hit .281 and had a much-improved .323 OBP over the 44 games he played for the Blue Jays and helped his new club to an AL Wild Card spot.
And he's even better this season. After going 1-for-5 against Miami Wednesday (the Jays were off Thursday), Merrifield is hitting .298 with a .355 OBP and has 18 steals. He's also still versatile, with 42 appearances at second base, 29 in left field, and four in right.
So, that decline the eight-year big league veteran seemed to be in last year may not have been a decline at all. Time will tell, but Merrifield is enjoying a pretty good first full season away from Kansas City.