Wil Myers, Right Fielder, Tampa Bay Rays
2013 season: 88 G, 335 AB, .293 BA, 13 HR, 53 RBI, 5 SB, .831 OPS
In 2012 the Tampa Bay Rays’ front office nabbed Wil Myers, one of baseball’s top hitting prospects, as if the team’s farm system weren’t stocked enough.
The slugger started out his minor league career as a catcher but was moved to the outfield to focus on his development at the plate. The young right fielder put together an unbelievable 2012 in Triple-A for the Kansas City Royals, mashing 24 home runs and driving in 79 runs with a .304 average, .932 OPS and elite .400 wOBA. The Rays swooped in that December and dealt James Shields – an aging front-of-the-rotation pitcher who was due for a salary jump in 2013 – and spare part Wade Davis for Myers and a few more prospects.
The Rays didn’t have to wait long for that trade to pay off as Myers blasted through Triple-A with 14 home runs, 57 RBI and .876 OPS in 64 games before getting the call. He quickly became an everyday player for the team and had no trouble bringing his power to the bigs. He had 13 home runs with a .831 OPS and even showed off some bonus speed with five steals, all on his way to a Rookie of the Year trophy.
One big knock on Myers is his strikeouts. He had a high K-rate, regularly over 20 percent in Double-A and Triple-A, and that didn’t disappear in the major leagues. He finished the regular season striking out 24.4 percent of the time, which Myers and the Rays would like to see shrink.
Despite the strikeouts, Myers has shown a good eye and drew plenty of walks in the minors. During his time with the Rays last season, however, he managed a walk rate of 8.8 percent, which was the lowest he had at any level. In the postseason he was exposed by Boston Red Sox pitching and went 2-for-20 with seven strikeouts and just one walk. A gaffe he made in right field and taunts from Red Sox fans seemed to get in his head and affect him at the plate.
But that was last year, and a 23-year-old feeling the pressure in the postseason is normal. Myers is one of the most promising young bats to hit the major leagues and needs to put that performance behind him and focus on developing as a hitter. Numbers don’t indicate that he swings at the wrong pitches or needs to lay off more balls, he just simply swings and misses a bit too much. And that issue isn’t uncommon for power hitters. Thus far he’s battled through it with a high average, and he projects as a .285-plus hitter with legitimate power for the middle of the order.
He should be able to turn to fellow teammate and former Rookie of the Year Evan Longoria — who looks eerily similar at the plate — for guidance in his first full season with Tampa Bay. Myers projects as the No. 4 hitter right out of the gate. His growth in that spot is a key for the Rays, which look to have the real deal on their hands.
Next up: Henry Urrutia, Baltimore Orioles