Who will man second base for the Royals in 2017? Is Merrifield, Colon or Mondesi ready to step up?
There’s no sugar-coating it, second base was an offensive black hole for the Royals last season. Whit Merrifield, Christian Colon, Raul Mondesi and Omar Infante combined for just 1.5 Wins Above Replacement, a number that would have been good for just 25th overall among all MLB second basemen if it was produced by one player.
So what are the Royals internal options at second in 2017?
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Let’s take a look.
From mid-May to mid-June, Whit Merrifield looked like a future all-star. The 28-year-old rookie hit .320 in his first 30 games, collecting 41 hits in 128 at-bats. There were signs the career minor league player was putting up unsustainable numbers, though. During that same stretch, Merrifield recorded 24 strike outs and walked just three times. A ninth-round pick out of the University of South Carolina in 2010, Merrifield finished the season with a respectable .283 average in 81 games.
So can Merrifield regain the form he showed when he was first called up from Omaha and be at a minimum an above-average Major League second baseman? Will he get the chance?
Merrifield appears to be the Royals safety net plan if they don’t sign a more proven infielder to at least compete for the job at second. In 716 minor league games over seven seasons, Merrifield hit .273, posted a .333 OBP and slugged just .398. He showed speed in the minors – he stole 32 for the Storm Chasers over 135 games in 2015 and another 20 in Omaha in just 69 games last year – but snagged just eight bags in 81 with the Royals. Worth noting, Merrifield is no spring chicken as he turns 28 in January.
Raul Mondesi is most likely the future shortstop of the Royals. After Merrifield began to struggle, Kansas City promoted Mondesi on July 25, the day before he turned 21, after he hit .259 and stole 17 bases in 29 games at Double-A Northwest Arkansas. (Mondesi missed the first 50 games of the season after testing positive for a banned substance.)
While Mondesi’s speed and glove were a joy to behold, he was clearly overmatched at the plate. (Which shouldn’t have come as a shock as he had less than 420 minor league at-bats before being called up to the majors.) Baseball Prospectus’s No. 16-ranked prospect heading into 2016, Mondesi hit just .185 in 47 games with the bigs with zero pop. Of his 25 hits, only six went for extra bases. Just as concerning, Mondesi whiffed 48 of the 149 times he came to the plate and walked just six – SIX! – times.
The most likely scenario for Mondesi is to start the season at Triple A.
The fourth overall pick of the 2010 draft – he was selected ahead of fellow first rounders Chris Sale and Christian Yelich – Christian Colon had every opportunity to win the job last spring and did nothing with it. Colon hit .167 in spring training last season, giving incumbent Omar Infante the starting second base job by default. After bouncing back and fourth between Omaha, Colon finished the season hitting .231 with an OPS of just .586 in 54 games for the Royals. The 27 year old is most likely a utility infielder at best for Kansas City in 2017.