Continuing our series of player profiles for the 2017 MLB Draft, we stay with the college hitter ranks with a look at University of South Florida shortstop Kevin Merrell, the fastest college player available.
Kevin Merrell is from Odessa, Florida, where he attended Steinbrenner High School. Active on the showcase circuit, he was undrafted coming out of school in 2014 and honored his commitment to the University of South Florida. He took a starting role as a freshman in ‘15, hitting .346/.403/.375 with 21 steals, then followed with an improved sophomore season in ‘16 at .320/.418/.401 with 16 steals.
After hitting .305/.359/.322 in the Cape Cod League, he took another step forward this spring with a .384/.466/.569 line, stealing 19 bases with a 29/31 BB/K in 216 at-bats, while setting a career-high with seven homers.
Merrell is a left-handed hitter, listed at 6-1, 180, born December 14th, 1995.
Merrell is the fastest player in college baseball and perhaps in the entire draft, earning 75-80 grades for his speed. He knows how to use that speed, stealing with an 84% success rate in college and 87% in summer ball. A line drive hitter, he’s improved his plate discipline over the last three years and understands the importance of getting on base, giving him excellent projection as a leadoff man.
Defensively, he began his career at second base but moved to shortstop this season. His range works there and he doesn’t make a large number of errors. His arm isn't spectacular for the position but his throws are accurate. Some scouts want to try him in center field and he has the athleticism to play just about anywhere.
Although he’s shown more pop this year, power isn’t a huge part of Merrell’s game and he’ll need to prove his bat will hold up against highest level pitching. His arm isn’t bad by any means and he’s held his own at shortstop, but it isn’t a cannon and some prefer him at second base long-term.
A team that likes Merrell as a shortstop or center fielder could be tempted to take him late in the first round, although it is more likely he’ll be a supplemental or second rounder. Given the lack of impact college players this year, it is unlikely he’ll last beyond the third.