CLEVELAND - Sluggers Pete Alonso and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. sure made hitting for power look easy on Monday night, as they sent myriad rockets into the night and out of Progressive Field in the Home Run Derby. Could you see Kansas City Royals second baseman/outfielder Whit Merrifield doing this? Of course not! He is a different type of player because he contributes in all five of the general hitting roto categories, while remaining a points-league gem -- and he certainly was not carrying fantasy managers back when he was in his early 20s.
Merrifield certainly carries fantasy managers now. With a .306 batting average, 11 home runs, 44 runs batted in, 13 stolen bases and 62 runs scored, his surprising 2017 breakout continues to look less and less surprising. Merrifield ranks No. 13 among all hitters on the ESPN Player Rater entering the second half and, while we could quibble about his paucity of stolen bases compared to previous seasons, we still have a .300 hitter on pace to establish career-highs in home runs and runs scored. On Monday, I asked the late-blooming Merrifield about his rise to stardom and his first All-Star appearance.