Speedy Kevin Merrell Sharpens His Leadoff Skills

Shortstop Kevin Merrell grades as at least a 70 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale. Some scouts might go even higher.

Merrell also has shown the ability to steal bases, and his offensive skills have impressed the Athletics as the 22-year-old lefthanded hitter embarks on his first full season at high Class A Stockton.

“He’s been a fun guy to watch,” farm director Keith Lieppman siad. “Every year we are looking for that guy who can take his tools and make it happen at the top level. Kevin has already shown a great deal of improvement.”

The A’s pushed Merrell to the California League, despite missing time with injuries last season after being taken in the supplemental first round out of South Florida. He got off to a sizzling start while showing his wide-ranging skills.

“He knows how to use his speed, how to bunt,” Lieppman said. Merrell focuses on hitting line drives, gap to gap. However, Lieppman believes that he has enough power to eventually hit occasional home runs. 

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Merrell understands the leadoff role and realizes the demands of the job. “He kind of has a feel for the job,” Lieppman said. 

On defense, Merrell also had impressed. He showed major improvement this year at shortstop, where Lieppman grades his arm at slightly above-average. He could move to second base if needed, and he also has the speed to play center field.

In the end, Merrell’s bat—specifically his ability to conform to a table-setter role—could be what forces the A’s to find a place for him to play. 

In addition, he has shown good instincts.

“For a guy who just signed, he seems to have a real good sense of game awareness,” Lieppman said. “He comes from a good (baseball) school, so he understands where he’s at. He’s had good training.”

>> A trio of Oakland pitchers—righthanders James Naile, Parker Dunshee and Bryce Conley—were all named pitchers of the week in their respective leagues. Naile at Triple-A Nashville could be propelling himself into position for a big league callup. Dunshee worked at Stockton and Conley at low Class A Beloit.

>> Double-A Midland shortstop Richie Martin got a late start to the season after knee and back injuries. He returned in mid-April.

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