Phillies 2024 Season Preview: UTIL Whit Merrifield

It will be interesting to see where newcomer Whit Merrifield gets most of his playing time. The utility man can provide versatility in the infield and outfield.
Philadelphia Phillies utilityman Whit Merrifield
Philadelphia Phillies utilityman Whit Merrifield / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Up next in our Philadelphia Phillies 2024 Season Preview is utilityman Whit Merrifield.

Previous season previews: José Alvarado, Andrew Bellatti, Alec Bohm, Connor Brogdon, Nick Castellanos, Rodolfo Castro, Kody Clemens, Jake Cave, Dylan Covey, Seranthony Domínguez, Darick Hall, Kolby Allard, Bryce Harper, Jeff Hoffman, Orion Kerkering, Rafael Marchán, Brandon Marsh, Yunior Marté, Michael Mercado, Max Castillo, Nick Nelson, Aaron Nola, Luis Ortiz, Cristian Pache, J.T. Realmuto, Michael Rucker

We'll examine Merrifield's 2023 season and then evaluate projections for the 2024 season using the Steamer and ZiPS projection systems, which can be found on FanGraphs.

Whit Merrifield 2023 stats and 2024 projections

2023 Stats: 145 G, 592 PA, 11 HR, 67 RBI, 26 SB, 36 BB, .272/.318/.382, .700 OPS, 1.5 fWAR

2024 Steamer: 87 G, 373 PA, 7 HR, 37 RBI, 14 SB, 23 BB, .256/.305/.375, .680 OPS, 0.2 fWAR

2024 ZiPS DC: 87 G, 378 PA, 7 HR, 44 RBI, 14 SB, 23 BB, .254/.300/.367, .668 OPS, 0.1 fWAR

Whit Merrifield 2024 season preview

As a newcomer to the Phillies, Merrifield's role is still somewhat unknown. It is practically a guarantee that he will receive less playing time than he is accustomed to; however, his versatility affords him the opportunity to get on the field more often.

After signing Merrifield earlier this month, the Phillies hope that they get the productive version of the player from 2023. As a member of the Toronto Blue Jays last season, Merrifield made his third All-Star team. During the first half, he posted a .734 OPS and was also a .286 hitter.

Post-break, Merrifield was not as productive. During the second half of the season, he hit just .256 and his OPS was just .656. While his playing time should dwindle in 2024, the hope is that his stat line will not.

Both Steamer and ZiPS DC project a pedestrian season for the former All-Star. Both models suggest that Merrifield will play just under 90 games this season. Both also project a sub.700 OPS, a batting average around .250, and not much power.

Merrifield isn't known for his power but rather for his ability to put the ball in play and his speed — which is still present at age 35. The Phillies will want their new signing to play a few times a week and be a serviceable offensive player. His low strikeout rate (17.1 percent) is an added bonus to this current strikeout-heavy Phillies lineup.

How will Merrifield adjust to a new role?

For the majority of his career, Merrifield has been an everyday player. With the talent and depth that the Phillies possess, it is unlikely that he will play more than 100 games. So why come to Philadelphia?

Merrifield is aware that he won't be on the field every single game in 2024, but he did have his reasons for deciding to sign with the Phillies. The 35-year-old knows that he isn't getting any younger. He wants to win and believes the Phillies' reputation and clubhouse culture gives him a chance to do that.

Given his age, perhaps the reduced role will be a blessing in disguise. Getting more rest will allow Merrifield to recover more effectively, allowing him to be more productive. The Phillies don't need him to be his former All-Star self in 2024, but they will hope that he can be a reliable option off the bench.

Merrifield's spring training performance

While spring training games have only just begun, Merrifield has gotten playing time. On Monday, Merrifield hit his first home run in a Phillies' uniform. That isn't something to be expecting to see much of, but it's good to see, nonetheless.

In his first two appearances this spring, Merrifield played second base, which is his best position. During the regular season, Bryson Stott will be seeing the majority of the playing time there, so moving forward, it will be interesting to see where else Rob Thomson wants to play his new utilityman. Merrifield told his manager that he plans on forcing his hand to get more playing time by simply playing well.

He is expected to see some time in left field as well. Wherever he is called to play, the Phillies will be looking for their new addition to make contributions. This is the deepest their bench has been in some time, and Merrifield will be the first player off the bench to get playing time.