Kansas City Royals: Time for Whit Merrifield to settle into one position
Sept. 20, 2019
Versatility is a valuable asset but is it time Whit Merrifield settles in at a primary position for the Kansas City Royals?
One of Whit Merrifield’s redeeming qualities is over the last few seasons is that the Kansas City Royals can plug him in anywhere, typically to mix and match other players to see what pieces fit. With the probable pending retirement of Alex Gordon and a young crop of Royals ready to make their mark the time would seem right to have consistency with positions.
Except for 2017, when he only started 12 games there, Whit has fielded the outfield position at a higher percentage than second base. He has also seen his games at second base drop from 131 to 107 to 70 the last three years which could indicate Kansas City is more comfortable with him in the grass as well.
Barring any major free agent signings, I would picture Bubba Starling, Brett Phillips and Merrifield roaming the outfield to start 2020. Even though Startling and Phillips have struggled offensively in 2019 both players deserve the chance to earn their spots next season. Depending on how his spring goes, Jorge Bonifacio can make a case to be in the mix as well.
This does mean the Royals would be giving Nicky Lopez a chance to prove he can handle the bat for a full season at second. His fielding has been excellent this year with a .990 percentage in 68 games at second base and .991 percentage in 26 games at shortstop. Hopefully, the bat will grow into a serviceable option for the bottom of the lineup.
This would regulate Jorge Soler to essentially a full-time designated hitter role with him showing up in right field when Kansas City is on the road for National League games and occasionally when Merrifield is called upon to play another position to give another player a breather. Soler has been on the bench for defense in roughly 64 percent of the Royals games this year so it is not unfamiliar territory and with a fielding percentage 12 points below league average, it would be a good move.
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While I appreciate all the different positions Merrifield has played without complaining throughout his years with the Royals, next season is the perfect time to let him claim his stake in right field. This will allow all the players to feel comfortable with where they will be playing the majority of the time and can instead, focus on their offense.