Merrifield breaks slump with consistent approach

Merrifield breaks slump with consistent approach

Merrifield breaks slump with consistent approach
The Arizona Fall League season is a time of fine-tuning for a lot of players. The process, more often than not, becomes more important than the results.

Whit Merrifield started hot in Arizona, but had fallen off over his last few games. But he was still putting the work in, and on Tuesday, he had some results to show for it.

The Kansas City outfielder went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, two runs scored and a walk out of the No. 2 hole, spurring Surprise's 10-run, 12-hit offensive effort in a 10-8 win over Mesa.

A ninth-round selection in the 2010 Draft by the Royals, Merrifield was 1-for-17 in five November games for the Saguaros coming into the tilt and his Fall League average had dipped from .294 to .203.

But he'd been focusing more on pitch selection and recognizing the strike zone in Arizona, and on that front, he's found much more success. After Tuesday, the 23-year-old has 10 walks and eight strikeouts in 18 games in Arizona.

"You know I've been a little disappointed with how I've played [here], but the big focal point coming in was to cut down on balls that I chased. I think I've done a good job on that," Merrifield said. "My walks are up and strikeouts are down, and that was big coming into the Fall League and one of the things I can take away from here."

The University of South Carolina product climbed his way to Double-A this season, playing in 24 games for Northwest Arkansas after a promotion from Class A Advanced Wilmington. In 125 games total, he hit .258 with a .329 on-base percentage and .378 slugging percentage with nine homers and 44 RBIs. He stole 28 bases while getting caught only seven times while splitting his time between center field, left field and second base.

In his 18 Fall League games, he's hitting .222/.329/.238 with nine steals and has been caught stealing just once.

Merrifield began playing second with the Blue Rocks toward the end of 2011, but it didn't become as much of a regular position for him until this season. He said he wanted to use his time in the AFL to continue to improve his comfort there.

"I've been trying to get some reps at different positions, stay fresh and just see good pitching every day. It's nice to come out here and see top-caliber pitchers every day," he noted. "It gives you a bit of confidence that you're seeing these guys. For the most part, I felt like I held my own against them."

Cesar Puello (Mets) went 2-for-2 with three runs scored and his two-RBI double in the sixth put Surprise ahead for good. Michael Almanzar (Red Sox) also plated two runs.

Top Tigers prospect Nick Castellanos led the Solar Sox, going 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs.

Jonathan Raymond is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.