Whit's 'strange,' 'terrific' season; MiLB awards

Merrifield joins exclusive club with 40-steal, 40-double campaign

October 1st, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- 's 40th double of the season on Wednesday night against Cleveland's Zach Plesac came in the form of top-tier baserunning, hustling out of the box and making a perfect slide to beat the throw.

It put a runner in scoring position for Nicky Lopez -- and landed Merrifield into the history books.

"That whole swing, first step out of the box, his route to tag, his turn at first base -- that’s textbook," manager Mike Matheny said. "It was as well done as you could possibly do it."

That hit earned Merrifield his second 40-double, 40-stolen base season. Only seven other players in AL/NL history have had multiple 40-40 seasons: Brian Roberts in 2007 and ’08, Hanley Ramirez in 2006 and ’07, Alfonso Soriano in 2002 and ’06, George Sisler in 1920 and 1922, Tris Speaker in 1912 and 1914 and Ty Cobb in 1911 and 1917.

“Any time you’re on a list with [Ty Cobb] is incredible,” Merrifield said Wednesday.

Merrifield then went on to give an honest assessment of his season when asked about the milestone.

“It’s been a strange year for me,” Merrifield said. “I haven’t lived up to the bar I’ve set for myself offensively. I’ve done some good things, had some good streaks. But I haven’t lived up to my standards. At the same time, to do something like that, when I feel like I haven’t performed like I’m capable of performing throughout the entire year, it feels good.

“Looking forward to building on some of the struggles I’ve had this year, learning from it and be able to adjust that going into next year, when these games are going to start mattering late in the year.”

The second baseman entered Thursday with a .279 average and .318 on-base percentage, 73 RBIs and 10 homers. He leads the American League with 40 stolen bases and has only been caught four times. He leads the Majors in at-bats (646) and has played every one of the Royals’ 158 games so far this season.

Merrifield, 32, has had more hot and cold streaks offensively in 2021 than he’s had in the past, but overall, he’s had a good season with 3.7 bWAR, which would be his second-highest bWAR to date, trailing only 2018's 4.5 (according to Baseball Reference). His 3.7 WAR ranks third on the Royals behind Salvador Perez (5.5 bWAR) and Nicky Lopez (4.0 bWAR).

"Guy that’s played every single game, just about every single pitch of every game," Matheny said. "He’s a spark to our offense in a number of ways. On the bases, how he sets the tone when he gets into the box. I believe he’s going to win the Gold Glove. How could you be unhappy with that year?

"I get it. He holds himself to a high level. He wants to lead the league in hits, lead the league in at-bats. I’m sure he probably wanted another 10 homers. But man, let’s be realistic, this has been a terrific season."

Minor League players and pitchers of the year
Kansas City announced its Minor League players and pitchers of the year for its respective affiliates on Thursday. Infielder Bobby Witt Jr. (the Royals' No. 1 prospect) and right-hander Jackson Kowar will be honored on Friday at Kauffman Stadium for winning the George Brett Hitter of the Year and Paul Splittorff Pitcher of the Year, respectively.

Triple-A Omaha: Witt Jr. (.293/.363/.584 with 33 home runs and 29 stolen bases between Omaha and Northwest Arkansas) and Kowar (3.46 ERA with 115 strikeouts in 17 overall appearances).

Double-A Northwest Arkansas: Catcher MJ Melendez (.288/.386/.634 with a Minor League-leading 41 home runs between Omaha and Northwest Arkansas) and right-hander Jon Heasley (3.33 ERA with 120 strikeouts across 105 1/3 innings before jumping to the Majors in September).

High-A Quad Cities: First baseman Vinnie Pasquantino (.300/.394/.563 with 24 home runs and 37 doubles between Quad Cities and Northwest Arkansas) and lefty Anthony Veneziano (3.75 ERA with 127 strikeouts in 93 2/3 innings).

Low-A Columbia: Shortstop Maikel Garcia (.291/.380/.405 with 21 doubles, seven triples and 35 stolen bases between Columbia and Quad Cities) and lefty Emilio Marquez (1.86 ERA and 87 strikeouts across 20 appearances and five starts).

Arizona Complex League Royals (Rookie): Catcher Guillermo Quintana (.298/.454/.452) and right-hander Heribert Garcia (2.62 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings, with just six walks, in the ACL before a promotion to Low-A).

Dominican Summer League Royals Blue: Shortstop Lizandro Rodriguez (.309/.446/.567 with 21 walks and 18 strikeouts) and lefty Jose Catano (1.16 ERA with 53 strikeouts and just 14 walks in 38 2/3 innings and 11 starts).

DSL Royals White: Shortstop Yeudi Advincola (.313/.365/.385 with seven doubles and 18 runs scored in 32 games) and lefty Fraicy Breton (2.11 ERA with 44 strikeouts in 42 2/3 innings).