Whit Merrifield

The Academy – Minor Happenings

With the arrivals of Whit Merrifield and Brett Eibner combined with their early success to the major leagues you might be asking who is the next rookie that can contribute to the Royals? To figure that out one just needs to glance through the 40 man roster and decide which player could be ready this season.

Some don’t think Whit Merrifield’s early success is sustainable, and likely it isn’t, but it is obvious that he isn’t over his head defensively. That offers the Royals flexibility to limit the need for additional position player at the major league level. That limits the need for Jorge Bonifacio if Alex Gordon’s injury would linger for some reason. Besides Eibner, one would think Reymond Fuentes is also ahead of Jorge, which limits Boni to a 2017 debut at the earliest. Whit’s play also clouds the need for a second baseman, Alex will be back soon, and like Zobrist in 2015, Merrifield will likely be asked to play up the middle more than in the outfield. This limits the need for Raul Mondesi. Yes I know he made a World Series debut, but his early impact in the major leagues was always likely to come with his glove and baserunning ability, things Merrifield can also excel at. We could still see Mondesi in September, but I wouldn’t expect anything before then.

This leaves one possible candidate who is on the 40-man roster and who hasn’t already debuted with a real chance at debuting this season. Lefty Matt Strahm is having a solid season at NW Arkansas after building his value at Wilmington last season coming back from Tommy John. From watching him most of the season, I doubt that he has the stuff to start at the major league level currently. That doesn’t mean he can’t make an impact with the Royals this season, though. His low 3/4 delivery and slider is just the stuff needed to get lefties out in the bigs in a September role. From that role, Strahm may prove to be a better option on a playoff roster than Mike Minor, who has struggled at Triple-A in rehab outings. Knowing Ned Yost having multiple lefties options out of the pen on a playoff roster isn’t likely when Soria, Hoch and Herrera all can get lefties out, but we should still see Strahm get a shot to make his case in September.

Bonifacio Flexing Athleticism

Jorge Bonifacio looks like a much quicker player than he has the past couple of seasons. Evidence of the leaner looking and more athletic player was on display in the last series a couple of different times versus El Paso. Sunday evening, Jorge blasted a ball to the left-center gap turning it into an easy triple, already his fifth triple of the season which is just two shy of his season high. In addition to that play, Bonifacio laid down a beautiful bunt single on Monday past the pitcher, leaving the third baseman who was playing deep no play to get him out as he raced down the line. The athleticism has carried over to the outfield where he is showing better range. That athleticism combined with the Royals analytics and scouting staff has me believing that Bonifacio can play an average outfield in the future, something I didn’t believe prior to the season.

Prospect Rising

Starter Jake Junis had an amazing month of May, compiling six starts with a 0.95 ERA. A year after leading Royals starters in innings pitched Junis is dominating right-handed hitters to the tune of a .194 batting average against and a 29% strikeout rate.  Looking back at Jake’s last six months of pitching and one can see he’s put together four sub 3.00 ERA months and two rough months over 5.00. If he can find consistency, then I wouldn’t be shocked to see him being ranked near the top of the Royals pitching prospects at the end of the season.


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