When Whit Merrifield stepped onto campus as a freshman at South Carolina, he was set to play center field for the Gamecocks. But by the time his junior year came around, Merrifield had added right field, third base and second base to his arsenal.
Merrifield, who was drafted as an outfielder by the Kansas City Royals in the ninth round of the 2010 MLB Draft, continues to use versatility to his advantage.
At Class AAA Omaha in 2015, Merrifield logged playing time at all three outfield spots and all four positions on the infield. He has parlayed his versatility and improved hitting into an everyday role for the 2017 Royals.
On Wednesday, in the series finale against the Boston Red Sox, Merrifield started in the outfield for the sixth time this season, giving Alex Gordon an afternoon off against left-hander Drew Pomeranz.
Merrifield’s ability to play around the diamond allows manager Ned Yost to give at-bats to rookie Ramon Torres, who hit .327 with five home runs, 34 RBI and eight stolen bases in AAA Omaha before being called up June 7.
“It’s good to get everybody at-bats and try to keep everybody fresh out there,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “It’s hard for a young guy to maintain consistent production when you’re unable to get at-bats.”
In the ninth inning, after the Royals took a 6-4 lead on a Salvador Perez grand slam, Merrifield shifted from left to right field.
“There’s not a position on the infield or the outfield that I would be afraid to play (Whit) at,” Yost said. “We played him at every position at spring training from left, to right, to second and even some third base here in the big leagues.”
Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who played with Merrifield at South Carolina, said on Tuesday that Merrifield could do it all.
“His ability to adapt to any given situation was great because he could be whatever you needed him to be,” Bradley said. “He was the leadoff hitter, he could bat second, he could hit for power if he wanted to, he could drive in runs and he could steal you bases.”