Blue Jays: Is Whit Merrifield ready to be an every day player for the Jays?
Whit Merrifield was acquired by The Toronto Blue Jays in August 2022 from the Kansas City Royals. He joined just in time to get some games in before the postseason. Merrifield showed to us that he just needed a short amount of time to adjust before doing some great things for the Jays.
The two-time All-Star and three-time stolen base leader started off the season relatively slow with the Royals. Coming off of a hot 2021 season, Merrifield had more to prove, but ultimately found himself struggling. The Kansas City leadoff hitter wasn’t producing at the plate and wasn’t performing on the base path like in past seasons. In 2021, he led the league in stolen bases (40) and doubles (42), and in 2022, he wasn’t even close to touching those league leading numbers.
In an interview with Sportsnet, he stated, “I knew [Blue Jays] had faith in me and confidence in me, and it was a matter of getting an opportunity to showcase that. I was getting opportunities here and there but wasn’t doing enough to get in the lineup on a regular basis… You gotta win games, and you gotta roll out the best guys that you got, and I wasn’t one of the best nine at the time.”
He managed to really come around for the Blue Jays, he was patient and regained control of his game, and found himself getting more playing time and being more productive at the plate at the tail end of the regular season. For example, with the Royals, in 95 games, the former All-Star was only hitting .240 with 6 home runs, when joining the Blue Jays, Merrifield managed to up the pace and hit .281 with five home runs in just 44 games.
In 2023, Baseball Reference has him projected to be a .258 hitter with an .305 OBP and OPS of .689. These numbers are just short of his most recent 2021 All-Star season, OBP of .317 and OPS of .711.
The confidence he’s gaining from the Blue Jays staff is what could really help those projected numbers bump up into All-Star-like numbers. From his interview with Sportsnet, he insinuates he has more to prove and he’s done “some pretty cool things before” and he’s “never lost confidence with himself” he stated how he had to prove what he could do to a new team, staff, and guys and he feels he showed what he could do at the right time. Being a utility player is what can help the 34-year-old prove what he has and what he can do for the organization.
Merrifield sounds hopeful for himself and the Blue Jays as a whole for the 2023 season. “It’s great to see a team going out there and really knowing what it needs to get better and doing it, and not being scared to make moves and make that happen”. He sounds ready to put in the work needed to prove he is an every day player and that the Blue Jays know what it takes to make another run for the post-season.