Merrifield is KC

Published 12:54 pm Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Kansas City Royals are 27-68 at the All-Star break. They have the fewest wins in baseball. They’re on pace for 46 wins. It would take a minor miracle for them to avoid 100 losses.

Whit Merrifield of Advance is certainly not to blame for KC’s struggles. He’s one of the few reasons to watch the Royals. He has offered one heck of a silver lining in their misery. He may not have made the American League All-Star Team – that was arguably the biggest slight in regard to the AL and NL rosters for the July 17 game – but the Royals certainly have an all-star-caliber player at second base and in the leadoff spot.

Houston’s Jose Altuve was the AL starter at second. Yankees rookie Gleyber Torres was the second choice, but he went to the disabled list and was replaced on the AL roster by the A’s Jed Lowrie. The Royals’ lone representative was catcher Salvador Perez.

Merrifield, 29, found out the disappointing news on July 8 before a game against Boston. Venting perhaps, he went 5 for 5 with two doubles.

“Anything I can use to motivate me, I’m gonna use,” Merrifield said.

Merrifield became one of baseball’s finest second basemen in 2017 and he’s been terrific this year. He’s fourth among all second basemen in on-base percentage (.373), sixth in WAR (2.6) and tied for the most doubles (29). He also ranks 12th in the AL in batting average (.307), 11th in OBP and eighth in batting average on balls in play (.335). His .307 average ranks third among all major-league second basemen with 280-plus plate appearances. He’s been held hitless in consecutive games twice this season – in both games of a doubleheader on April 28 and for four games from May 20-23.

There’s also this: During the 2017-18 seasons, Merrifield has been the 30th-most valuable position player in baseball, according to Baseball-Reference WAR. He’s been more valuable than Buster Posey, Manny Machado, Cody Bellinger, Bryce Harper and Eric Hosmer.

“There’s going to be peaks and valleys to a season, but the key to having a good season is managing those valleys and trying to ride out those peaks as long as you can,” he said.

Unfortunately for Kansas City, one man can only do so much.

“Losing (stinks), and we’ve lost a lot,” he said. “It hasn’t been fun as far as all that goes. We got four days off (for the All-Star break). Hopefully we can regroup and everyone can kind of step back and reset.”

Merrifield makes around the league minimum and is under team control for awhile. He won’t become a free agent until after the 2022 season. The Royals are presumably trying to decide whether to keep him or trade him before the deadline at the end of July. Merrifield said he would be just fine with staying put.

“The grass isn’t always greener on the other side,” he said. “I’m comfortable here, I’ve had success here and I’d like to stay here.”