Kansas City Royals: Whit Merrifield Is The Real Deal

Kansas City Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield (15) - Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Kansas City Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield (15) - Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports /

The 2016 season has brought a lot of surprises to Kansas City Royals. Some good and some bad. The injuries this year have been far from ideal. However, because of the injuries a few positives have risen. One in particular is Whit Merrifield.

Whit Merrifield was a three-year starter at the University of South Carolina. His freshman year, Merrifield finished with a batting average of .326 and earned All-SEC Freshman honors. His sophomore year his .340 batting average showed his continued growth. By his junior year he was hitting .321 and won the Earnest Brooks Co-Athlete of the Year.

He helped lead the Gamecocks to the 2010 College World Series against the UCLA Bruins, where he had the game winning hit to win the championship. That summer during the MLB Draft, Whitley Merrifield was the 269th player selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 9th Round.

After being drafted by the Kansas City Royals, Merrifield was sent to Burlington (A) where he started his dream of becoming a professional baseball player.

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He didn’t start as hot as he did at college, batting .253/.317/.409 during the 2010 season, but by 2012 Merrifield was named Wilmington Player of the Year. What the Royals front office didn’t want anyone to know though was that Whit Merrifield was a hidden secret.

Since being drafted in 2010 Merrifield was never put on the 40-man roster, meaning that any team could have signed him away from the Royals through the Rule-5 Draft. With amazing work done by the front office, he never became a potential player that could have been stolen from the Royals. Up until May of 2016, Merrifield has been kept a house hold secret.

On May 18th, Whit Merrifield got his opportunity that would change his life forever. He got the chance to start game two of a double-header against the Boston Red Sox. In this game, Merrifield started in left field and went 1-for-3 against the Red Sox ace, David Price. He went on to hit .356/.356/.467 for the month of May.

Merrifield has the ability to play nearly every position on the infield and outfield.

Merrifield set the Kansas City Royals rookie record for most consecutive games with a hit, beating Johnny Damon‘s rookie season, while being dawned the nickname “2-Hit Whit” because of the number of games he has more than one hit. In fact, Merrifield has collected two or more hits in 15 of 37 games, just over 40% of the games he has played in this year.

Something even better than his offensive numbers is the fact that he is defensively sound. Defense is something the Royals have built their team around, so no matter the offensive numbers they have to be sound defensively.

Merrifield has the ability to play nearly every position on the infield and outfield. He found a home at second base with Omar Infante being designated for assignment. Merrifield’s versatility makes it easier to give Alex Gordon time off as well adding to his value for the Royals.

Now, the biggest mistake fans can make is falling in love with a new player. The voice of the Kansas City Royals, Denny Matthews, always said that he would never judge a team until June or July, he will never make future predictions, and you will not see what a player is truly going to be until he plays at least 40 games.

That is when the player starts to get a “book” on him, meaning opposing teams figure out a game plan on how they will pitch him.

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Merrifield is quickly approaching the “40 game” mark that Matthews has said to be the mile stone that shows what kind of player someone is going to be. Through his first 37 games, he has posted a .306/.327/.426 and he has been batting lead off for the Royals.

If this is the type of player Merrifield is going to be, then the rest of the league is kicking themselves for not stealing him away from Kansas City over the last six years.

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Whit Merrifield is playing himself into some uncharted territory for Royals players. Since the creation of the franchise, only five rookies have ever won Rookie of the Year honors. Could “2-hit Whit” be the latest Royals player to win the Rookie of the Year award since Angel Berroa in 2003?

Is this truly the real Whit Merrifield, or is this the Whit Merrifield that MLB pitchers haven’t figured out how to pitch to yet? Only time will tell, but we can only hope that he’s the real deal.