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Kansas City Royals: Young players stepping up in 2017

Whit Merrifield #15 of the Kansas City Royals (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Whit Merrifield #15 of the Kansas City Royals (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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The Kansas City Royals haven’t had a great 2017 campaign so far, but there are a few positives. One of the biggest is how the younger players have stepped it up and helped this team tremendously.

When looking at the current Kansas City Royals lineup, a lot of people would expect the biggest contributors to be guys like Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, or Mike Moustakas. Nobody would peg Jorge Bonifacio or Whit Merrifield as two of the most important guys in the lineup, but that’s where the Royals are right now.

Neither of the aforementioned players were even in the big leagues when the season began. Both were in Omaha, trying to work their way to Kansas City.

Merrifield got shipped off to Omaha because Raul Mondesi Jr. won the starting job at second base and Christian Colon had no options left. That, by default, made Merrifield expendable to send to Triple-A, where he stayed for the first two weeks of the MLB season.

Bonifacio, on the other hand, had never been to the majors until his call-up on April 21st. He’s been a true impact player during his short time as a member of the Royals and is seemingly always come through in the clutch.

Merrifield is slashing .285/.332/.459 in 47 games and 188 plate appearances while Bonifacio is slashing .262/.327/.456 in 44 games and 165 plate appearances. (neither of these include Wednesday’s stats). Neither of these guys were expected to be making the type of impact that they are, but it’s definitely a good sign for what’s to come.

After this season, the Royals could no longer have Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas. They’re going to need the young guys to step in and compete, otherwise the Royals could be heading back into a horrible rebuilding phase again, and nobody wants to see that happen.

Merrifield is showing that he’s capable of being an every day second baseman and also has the ability to play in the outfield. He’s becoming a guy who can play every day and is actually leading off for the Royals, something that finally happened after the guy had a 19-game hitting streak.

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Bonifacio is playing in right field, but might end up being a nice option to use at designated hitter in the next few years. Brandon Moss is only signed for two years, meaning 2018 would be the final year of his contract. Plus, Moss isn’t really all that good, so Bonifacio would be an improvement as the DH for sure.

While these two are performing well, let’s not forget the pitchers. Jake Junis stepped up on Sunday in San Diego and pitched seven innings of three-run baseball, lowering his ERA to 4.67 on the year. It’s not a great ERA, but considering he’s only appeared in five games, it’s not too bad.

Eric Skoglund was off to a great start, pitching a shutout through 6.1 innings in his MLB debut. He’s had two bad starts since then, but his debut in the major leagues was something special and will definitely go down as one of the most memorable moments this year.

When looking at the future of the Kansas City Royals, it’s easy to forget about guys like Merrifield, Bonifacio, Junis, and Skoglund, but so far… They’re showing that they can go out there and perform like a true major leaguer does. That’s all the Royals can ask for at this point, and perhaps the team is in good hands after all.