The Near Future of Wil Myers

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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31 Responses to “The Near Future of Wil Myers”

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  1. Steve says:

    I’m curious: why don’t you think he’ll be able to maintain a babip around 350 in the majors? He’s proven he can accomplish this in the minors… is it simply because he strikes out a lot and has an upright batting stance?

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    • Jason says:

      Better defense in the majors means lower BABIP.

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      • Rick says:

        Not to mention better pitching, combined with better scouting = positioning better defensive players (greater range and arms) in better position.

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    • Brandon says:

      1 – Major League teams have major league caliber defenders, presumably with the superior ability to turn batted baseball into outs.

      2 – There are 33 players in the history of baseball that have career BABIP of 350 or better.

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    • firejerrymanuel says:

      very few people in the major leagues have .350 BABIPs. and almost every good prospect has a high BABIP in the minor leagues.

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      • Mark Smith says:

        Right. I think he might be able to maintain a .300+ BABiP, but it’s hard to say where he might fall – .320ish maybe.

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  2. Baltar says:

    Myers coming up should have nothing to do with whether the Rays outfield is currently performing well. There’s room for Zobrist at 2B, the 3 best of the rest at OF and DH, and Fuld on the bench.
    If your team is fighting for a playoff spot, whom do you want on your 25-man roster, Myers or somebody like Sean Rodriguez or Luke Scott?

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    • Brandon says:

      Agreed. Not sure why Myers can’t DH a game or two per week, Joyce and Kelly DH a game or two per week. I’d keep Sean over Luke as his versatility helps a bunch (he’s the Rays emergency catcher as well).

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    • Ivan Grushenko says:

      The surprising thing is that Scott had been hitting pretty well with a wRC+ of 136 in May after missing the start of the season with injury. He’s been terrible in June, though. They need Rodriguez as backup SS and he’s been hitting surprisingly well also — 116 wRC+. Whenever they think Myers is ready to play every day in the majors they probably will DFA Scott, move Johnson to DH and play Myers in the OF.

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  3. rglass44 says:

    You have Bex at a 4.0 to first? Wouldn’t that be 80 speed from the right side? Was that supposed to read low-4s?

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    • Mark Smith says:

      In my opinion, home-to-first times may need to be redone – not sure the last time they were – or I was just horrible on the timing, though I don’t think I was.

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  4. everdiso says:

    Some warning signs starting to appear at higher levels.

    A: 16.3bb%
    A+: 15.0bb%
    AA: 12.0bb%
    AAA: 10.4bb%

    what looked like an elite eye at the plate early on has been steadily falling down to average as he moves up through the minors.

    A: 18.7k%
    A+: 15.8k%
    AA: 22.7k%
    AAA: 23.1k%

    Starting to miss a significant amount of pitches as he moves up, too.

    His two superb minor league performances – 172wRC+ at A+ in 2010 and 212wRC+ at AA in 2012 – were supported by totally unsustainable .411 and .413 babips respectively.

    The rest of his performances with more reasonable minor league babips:

    A ’10: 152wRC+ (.335babip)
    AA ’11: 103wRC+ (.312babip)
    AAA ’12: 137wRC+ (.349babip)
    AAA ’13: 131wRC+ (.331babip)

    Good numbers, but I’m not so sure those performances indicate a future great MLB hitter.

    There’s no denying his power potential, though:

    A: .211iso
    A+: .166iso
    AA: .207iso
    AAA: .243iso

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    • rglass44 says:

      i don’t think many folks have 170 wrc+ expectations for myers. that’s number 1 prospect and near hof level expectations. the expectations most seem to hold are more inline with a 120-130 wrc+ with better than average defense. that’s a 4-5 win player, a sometime allstar, and definitely a first division starter.

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    • Nathan Shields says:

      You also have to take into consideration that those BABIPs are at level where the defense is not major league caliber

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  5. rjbiii says:

    “He looks good in a uniform, and he stands out among his peers.”

    Funny to see this on a sabremetrics website

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  6. CabreraDeath says:

    This was a good report. Well-written, informative, and timely.

    Good job, sir.

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  7. masonzippo says:

    Play Zobrist at SS (where he played a lot last year and decently) and then the odd-man out is Escobar, no?

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    • rglass44 says:

      escobar is on pace for 3 war. he is nowhere near the odd man out.

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    • Steve says:

      Whoa, Escobar over Scott? No way the Rays do that. Scott is terrible, the Rays know it. You know it. I know it. Bye bye, Scott.

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      • Ivan Grushenko says:

        If they wanted to, they could platoon Escobar with Scott. Zobrist and Johnson are that versatile. But I’m not sure I’d do that. The other option would be to option Rodriguez, but then Zobrist becomes the backup SS and Roberts/Longoria the backup to him.

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      • Bill says:

        You weren’t saying that in May. Scott has always been very streaky. The Rays might regret letting him go. Of course, Escobar is also very streaky, so it makes for a tough call. I think the Rays need a middle infielder more than they need a outfielder/first baseman, so even though I like Scott as a person, I think he should be the odd man out. I just don’t think it’s a cut and dry as you make it out to be. I’d like to see him end up in Baltimore and get hot again.

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        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          “I like Scott as a person”

          The first time those words have been spoken by anyone, ever.

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  8. JuanPierreDoesSteroids says:

    His Double-A and Triple-A strikeout rates over 20% suggest this will probably be a problem in the majors

    Does K% really jump up that much when you go from the minors to the majors, or do we just ASSUME that it does? Because some guys (Jay Bruce and Paul Goldscmidt come to mind) had a K% over 20% in the minors, but they didn’t really see any signifigant change in their strikeout numbers at all when they hit the majors. Sure, Myers’ BABIP should drop, but I think you would expect this no matter what his K% looks like.

    Its an honest question. I’m actually curious if there is any data that shows whether or not minor league strikeout rate is a decent predictor of major league production.

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  9. filihok says:

    Where there’s a Wil there’s a Ray

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  10. NyuckNyuck says:

    What’s looking more and more likely is that Joyce will move to the DH spot and Myers will take his spot in the outfield. Luke Scott had a very solid May after coming off the DL, but since then he has been nothing short of godawful. His days are numbered.

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