2 Blue Jays who have exceeded expectations and 2 who have fallen short through 50 games
By Edward Eng
At the beginning of the 2023 season, the role of Whit Merrifield on the Jays roster was uncertain, as he was expected to be utilized as a serviceable utilityman, filling in spots in the lineup when called upon. As a result, he was expected to get some rotational starts at second base, along with some spot starts in the outfield on days when the everyday starting outfielders were given a rest. In addition, not much was expected from Merrifield after he had his career worst season with the Kansas City Royals prior to being traded to the Jays at the 2022 trade deadline. He did have a two-week offensive spurt with the Jays near the end of September, but that was about it.
Now almost one-third into the 2023 season, Merrifield appeared to be rejuvenated and has surprised everyone in becoming the All-Star Merrifield of old. He has hit .288 with a .725 OPS, 24 runs scored, two home runs and 19 RBI. More importantly, he has regained his legs and has been tearing up the basepaths with 14 stolen bases already on the season, keeping the opposing team on their heels each time he got on base. In doing so, he has now secured a spot and become a mainstay in the Jays’ everyday lineup.
In addition, prior to the start of the season, much was expected from offseason acquisitions in Daulton Varsho and Brandon Belt to help carry the load and solidify the Jays’ offence. However, it has been Merrifield instead that has unexpectingly risen to the occasion to provide the Jays with that extra jump and boost to their offence in the middle of the lineup on a consistent basis this year.