This is a down year for the Kansas City Royals. The team is performing in line with low expectations, failing to compete for a playoff spot so far. Fans need to look for bright spots wherever they can find them. Whit Merrifield can provide one. The second baseman has proven he has more than a dash of speed in his arsenal. Never was that more evident than on Friday night (May 18), when he had arguably the best game of his season, and maybe career. Billy Hamilton better watch out, because there may be a bigger danger on the basepaths.

Merrifield swipes third base

It's not just about the speed Merrifield possesses in droves.

It's about how he chooses to utilize it. Second is the most common base stolen in baseball, which just makes intuitive sense: As the furthest base from the catcher, it's the hardest to throw out a baserunner. But on Friday night, that wasn't Kansas City's second baseman target of choice. He enjoyed swiping third instead.

That's what happens when you hit a lot of doubles - stealing second comes off the table. Out of the leadoff spot against the New York Yankees, Merrifield recorded three hits (including a double) and two runs. He also stole three bases. He swiped third in the first inning, which led to him scoring a run on a fielder's choice.

In the third inning, he singled, then stole second; he wound up scoring a run in that frame as well. He struck yet again just one inning later, swiping second after a single. He couldn't convert that one into a run, through no fault of his own. Merrifield will be forgiven, though, considering the Royals won 5-2 for just their 14th win of the season.

Stealing everything

The Royals hitter has been tearing up the bases all season long. He has stolen 12 bases this season, putting him on a pace to demolish the career-high of 34 he set last year. He now has two games this season where he's stolen at least three bases. Merrifield also leads the league in steals of third base.

Since a slow start to the season, Merrifield has picked up the pace and stolen the hearts of his fans. He's now been in the majors for exactly two years. The 29-year-old is no spring chicken, but he's displayed potential to be a late-rising five-tool player. He's exactly the type of player the Royals hope can develop into a key piece when they're ready to contend again in a few years. Until then, Merrifield is going to keep chasing the game's fastest players for the steals title for the 2018 season.