Waiting in the Wings: Wil Myers

To preface, I really tried to hold off writing about Myers, since Jason had covered him earlier this month, but given his hitting binge and subsequent promotion to Triple-A, he fit the profile of a "Waiting in the Wings" hitter too well. I link to Jason's article below, and you should absolutely read it.

Wil Myers - RF - Royals - Myers was drafted in the third round of of the 2009 draft out of Wesleyan Christian Academy. He had first round talent but dropped due to $2 million demands, which the Royals did not hesitate to meet. Myers was drafted as a catcher, and played there during his first two seasons, before transitioning to the outfield in 2011. The transition had less to do with Myers' defensive deficiencies as it did with his prowess with the bat, and expediting his path to the major leagues. That plan didn't pay off as Myers struggled through a knee injury that later got infected, and clearly affected his 2011 season. While his first crack at Double-A didn't go smoothly, Myers proved his health in the Arizona Fall League, and has abused Texas League pitchers so badly that they all breathed a sigh of relief when Kansas City promoted Myers to Triple-A Omaha yesterday.

Read more on Wil Myers both after the jump and here, where Jason Hunt wrote about him previously...

Myers introduced himself to prospect watchers with a sampling of his talent in Rookie level Idaho Falls, posting a .426/.488/.735 slash line, albeit in only 68 at-bats. He continued his mashing ways in 2010, splitting the season between Lo- and Hi-A, finishing with a combined .315/.429/.506 slash line with 14 home runs and 37 doubles. Pardon my general glossing over of his early seasons, but 2011 and Double-A is where things really get interesting. After spending his first two professional seasons as a catcher, the Royals opted to move Myers to right field, where his position wouldn't hold back his bat, similar to what the Nationals did with Bryce Harper. Unfortunately, they didn't get to see the true Wil Myers, as he struggled through the entire season with a knee injury that became infected. He posted a solid if unspectacular .254/.353/.393 slash line, but also saw a decreased walk rate and elevated strikeout rate compared to his career norms. That said, for a 21 year old in Double-A, a 12.5% walk rate is nothing to sneeze at and a 20.9% strikeout rate isn't something that would hold a prospect of Myers' ilk back. He also put up a .312 BABIP which one would think is average, but Myers has never posted a lower one in more than 16 at-bats. 2011 also featured his career low ISO rate as he only managed eight home runs in 416 at-bats. 2012 could not be more different for Myers, as he's *this* to changing his official name to The White Hot Wil Myers. Through 148 at-bats Myers has hammered opposing pitchers to the tune of a .354/.426/.754 slash line, with 25 of his 46 hits going for extra bases (13 HR, 11 2B, 1 3B). Myers had been on a special kind of tear of late, smacking seven home runs in his last 12 games. Before you break out that change of shorts, allow me to throw some cold water on the numbers. While Myers is posting elite slash stats, his walk rate has dropped to a still pleasant 10.8% (a 1.7% drop from 2011) and his strikeout rate has skyrocketed 6.8% to 27.7%. It is possible his elevated strikeout rate is correlated to his increased power production, but at some point a strikeout rate that high will take a toll on Myers' average. I think it's likely Myers is able to find a middle ground between his high power, high strikeout approach and his previous one of patience and plus hitting ability. Lastly, this is a second go round at Double-A for Myers and some of his incredible success could be attributed to that as well.

Myers tools stand out immediately. He has quick hands that allow him to wait on pitches while still getting the bat through the zone. He struggled last year with pitches on the inner half of the plate, despite good batspeed, but was able to adjust later in the year by altering his batting stance to open him up and allow him to get his hands inside the ball better. Power isn't, or wasn't, a natural part of Myers game, as his swing didn't have the plane to create loft to hit home runs. He had enough strength and bat speed to do it, but his swing wasn't geared for it. It's likely he's made an adjustment this year, though it's also possible that at 21 years of age, he is simply growing into his strength. As he continues to fill out, he will hit for more power with some going as high as 30 home runs annually in his prime, with others settling in at 25+. His approach was considered major league ready before the season began, and despite the decline in his walk rate, it remains a weapon for Myers at the plate. Defensively, Myers has the tools to contribute on both sides of the ball, but not the skills at the moment. His arm was a plus behind the plate, and remains so in the outfield. Where he struggles is in his routes to the ball, though that should improve given enough reps. Despite being a catcher early on, Myers has above-average athleticism that should allow him to excel in a corner outfield spot. So far in 2012 Myers has seen time in center field in addition to the corner outfield spots, and has even recently been given a look at third base. He would be a stretch in center field, but may be able to fake it for a few years, and has the tools to contribute at third, but would be well served to see a lot of reps in the minors if he was going to play there long term. Given the presence of Mike Moustakas, it's likely the Royals are just increasing Myers versatility and value by giving him time at these positions. Speed is not an aspect of Myers game, though he did reach double digits in both 2010 and 2011, getting 10 both years. Makeup is a plus for Myers as well, as he's known to take extra rounds of batting practice to maintain his swing.

Triple-A will be a good test for Myers as he's torn through the Texas League in his second go round, and could use a new challenge. I am absolutely enamored of Myers, and see him as a well above-average hitter with plus power as he grows into his frame. Scouts have thrown grades as high as 70 on his future hit tool and 60 on his future power. To be sure, there are things Myers needs to refine, but he has an all-star starter kit when it comes to tools, and is knocking banging on the door to Kansas City. I'd be concerned if I were Jeff Francouer, though the possibility of Myers breaking into the big leagues in center field is a very real one.

Follow me on twitter: @cdgoldstein

Source Material:

Baseball America
Keith Law
Baseball Prospect Nation
Fangraphs

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