Yesterday the Kansas City Royals promoted infielder/outfielder Whit Merrifield from Triple-A Omaha to the major league roster. He made his big league debut against the Boston Red Sox, starting in left field and going 1-for-3 with a single and a strikeout. Merrifield is rather obscure as a prospect but we cover everyone here at Minor League Ball. Let's take a look.
Merrifield was well-known to college baseball fans as a key cog in the lineup for the South Carolina Gamecocks, hitting .329/.389/.489 over three seasons and earning a ninth round pick in the 2010 draft. His physical tools were just so-so but his feel for the game and versatility were well-respected. That's been his reputation in the minors as well. He reached the upper minors in 2014 and has spent the last two years with Triple-A Omaha, hitting .340/.373/.474 in 76 games in '14, then a somewhat disappointing .265/.317/.364 in 135 games last year.
This season he was hitting .278/.346/.458 in 144 at-bats with 14 walks and 26 strikeouts, stealing 16 bases in 17 attempts.
Merrifield is a right-handed hitter, born January 24, 1989, listed at 6-0, 195. At age 27 he is a finished product. His best physical tool is slightly above average running speed, though he has the instincts to use that speed very well on the bases. He is both aggressive and polished as a runner, a stolen base threat and a guy who will take an extra base if the opportunity arises. He is also a fairly aggressive hitter and doesn't draw a large number of walks, but he makes contact readily.
Merrifield doesn't have huge raw power but can occasionally get into a cripple pitch and hit a homer to left field. He usually focuses on spraying line drives around and avoids the trap of getting out of his game and becoming overly power-conscious, letting extra base hits come when they may.
Defensively, his best asset is simple versatility. His range and arm are generally average but he is competent at multiple positions including second base, third base, shortstop, and all three outfield spots, using instincts and hustle to compensate for lack of excellent tools.
Overall, Merrifield is a good option as a 25th man due to his versatility, speed, and occasional sparks of hitting. He's not a future star but could be a useful role player if he can manage to hit .250, which is possible.
Here's some of his occasional pop.