Wil Myers was the prize in the James Shields–Wade Davis trade. Ranked 10th overall in 2011, 28th in 2012, and 4th in 2013 by Baseball America, Myers has been a top prospect for a long time, and a huge 2012 with 37 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A solidified Myers’ place among the very best prospects. When this season began, Myers, however, found himself back in Triple-A a few months removed from having hit .304/.378/.554 in the Pacific Coast League the past season.
Talent probably wasn’t the reason. Myers has shown the statistical production one would expect from a top prospect, and I headed to the park this past weekend to see if the scouting report matched the spreadsheet. The first thing you notice about Myers is his frame – six-feet-three-inches of lean muscle. He looks good in a uniform, and he stands out among his peers.
The next thing to look at was his offense. Myers stands very upright at the plate, almost to the point of looking stiff. There’s not much pre-delivery movement, either. As the pitcher delivers the ball, Myers loads his hands deep and uses excellent bat speed to bring the barrel to the ball. And that barrel packs a wallop. Facing Armando Galarraga – which well Armando Galarraga – Myers went deep twice. The first was a shot that Myers backspun to dead-center, and considering center field is 405 feet deep to that part of Louisville Slugger Field, the home run probably went 430 feet. Myers’ second home run, however, was more impressive – line shot that never went higher than 20-25 feet off the ground. His power is very real, and the projection of him hitting 30+ home runs seems very real.
I do wonder about just how much contact he will make, though. The load is pretty deep, and against better velocity, Myers didn’t make the same contact that he did against the 89 mph fastballs Galarraga threw his way. His Double-A and Triple-A strikeout rates over 20% suggest this will probably be a problem in the majors. Because of the bat speed he can generate, Myers will still hit at the major-league level, but the batting average might be in the .250-.260 range. The secondary skills – walk rates over 10% at each level and the power – should make up for the lower batting average, and given the force with which Myers hits the ball, he might sustain a high enough BABiP to beat my projected BA for him.
Myers will also add to his value on defense. Playing right field, Myers has outstanding range for a corner outfielder, running down a couple balls in the gap, but his arm isn’t what I expected. He had a few opportunities to let loose, but there was a little more hump in the throw than I would necessarily want from a right fielder. His range will make him an asset in a corner, and if the arm is better than what he showed, he could be a real weapon out there.
As I said a little earlier, Myers’ talent isn’t the reason he was optioned to Durham. Beyond the usual suspicions of service-time manipulation, the Rays simply have a very good outfield. Desmond Jennings, Kelly Johnson, Matt Joyce, and Sam Fuld have spent the most innings in the outfield for the Rays with the occasional appearance by Ben Zobrist. Zobrist is an All-Star caliber player, and if they need him in the outfield, he will play out there. Joyce is hitting .253/.332/.472 and is a solid 2-3 win player in a corner. Jennings is a center fielder, and Myers probably shouldn’t play out there over him. But the real surprise has been Johnson, who is hitting .260/.322/.481 and has had a few solid seasons in his career. Considering the Rays aren’t likely to have Myers DH, there’s not really a place currently available for Myers to play every day, especially as the other outfield options are solid on defense as well.
Myers may have to continue to wait his turn, even as he continues to rake again as one of the youngest players in the International League. It’s a good problem for the Rays, but it does mean Myers is somewhat blocked for the moment, even if he has nothing left to learn in Triple-A.
Others of Note
Tim Beckham, the former first overall pick, looks in outstanding shape. Lean and muscular, Beckham looks the part of a middle infielder, and he has the speed to play the up-the-middle positions – I got a few 4.0s from his down the line. The swing looked solid as well – quick through the zone – but there doesn’t look to be much power production in it as it is a flat swing. Defensively, Beckham didn’t play particularly well with some iffy reactions and movements – including booting a ball slightly to his left – with a solid arm that might be a bit light for shortstop. There’s major-league value here, but it’s not likely to be at short or of the impact variety.
I’ll also give a brief follow-up on Billy Hamilton. The speed and defense are obviously still there, but the swing might be coming around a bit as well. As my main point of criticism for Hamilton, I’ve been paying attention to his left-handed swing over several games this season, and it has improved. The swing is more direct to the ball and incorporates his lower body better. I’m not going to say, “He’s fixed! Bring him up!”, but he’s made better contact the last few times I’ve seen him.
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