The Royals have designated outfielder Jose Martinez for assignment and optioned Christian Colon to Triple-A Omaha, tweets Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star. The pair of moves creates space on the 40-man and 25-man rosters for infielder/outfielder Whit Merrifield, whose contract has been selected from Omaha.
Martinez, 27, got some consideration for a big league spot on the heels of an otherworldly 2015 season in which he won the Pacific Coast League batting title and posted an overall slash line of .384/.461/.563 with 10 homers in 396 plate appearances last season. However, he had a poor Spring Training and has seen his production come back down to Earth in 2016, hitting .298/.356/.433 through his first 160 plate appearances. That monster campaign restored some of the former White Sox farmhand’s prospect status, with Baseball America rating him 24th in Kansas City’s minor league system this offseason. BA’s scouting report describes Martinez’s swing as a “smooth, flat, line-drive swing” that could generate 10 to 12 homers per season but isn’t likely to yield significant power contributions. They also graded him as an average defender in the outfield corners.
Merrifield, also 27, doesn’t rank among the organization’s top 30 prospects but is enjoying a solid campaign at Triple-A himself and brings some defensive versatility (and an excellent name) to the table. He’s hitting .278/.342/.458 with five homers and 16 steals through just 163 plate appearances this season. He’s appeared at first base, second base, third base and all three outfield spots in 2016, though the bulk of his work in the minors has come at second base and in left field (more than 2000 innings at each position). MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan tweets that manager Ned Yost and many in the front office talked Merrifield up as a perfect 25th man for the roster this Spring Training, so he’s clearly had the eye of Royals decision-makers for awhile, and his strong start to the season will now be rewarded with his first promotion to the Majors.