For years, San Diego Padres’ outfielder Wil Myers was viewed as a 20, maybe 25-homer hitter capable of stealing at least 15 bases per season. He even surpassed that home run tally in both 2016 and 2017, with 28 and 30, respectively. He also had 28 thefts in ’16. In short, he always had some power and speed.
Batting average was another story, as it fluctuated between .239 and .293 over his eight-year MLB tenure. Before 2020, it mostly hovered around .240 and .260, as his career .254 mark can attest.
That exact profile, which is a .250 AVG outfielder with 20-homer power and 15-SB speed should have plenty of value in fantasy leagues as it is.
Enter 2020. The season was short and all, but the samples that we obtained from it shouldn’t be ignored altogether.
Myers finished the last campaign with a .288 average and 15 home runs in just 55 games. That means his 162-game pace was 44, which would have easily been a career-high.
Myers implemented some changes, and they paid off
After years of standing upright at the plate, Myers closed off his stance and adopted a more crouched position.
Dan Richards of Pitcher List talked about Myers’ new stance last August:
“Evidently, Myers was so upright that he would essentially fall over his front leg, resulting in a downward swing path. There’s almost no bend in his front leg, which turns inward at a steep angle at the point of contact. It’s probably closer to 80° than Votto’s or Trout’s ideal 60°, which means that, per Tewksbary, Myers was shifting over his front leg and chopping down at the ball.
Whereas now, Myers starts much lower to the ball with his front leg bent inwards, which creates a straighter/upward swing path and allows him to finish middle, as opposed to on top of his front leg.”
The new approach and position worked wonders for Myers, as he essentially murdered the ball. Here is his Statcast profile:
For a guy that finished 2019 with a 34.3% strikeout percentage and a 13.6% swinging strike percentage (SwStr%), Myers made huge gains and not only lowered his K% to 25.7% (closer to his career mark of 26.6%) in 2020, but also managed to have well-above average numbers in average exit velocity, hard-hit rate, xwOBA, xBA, xSLG, and barrel percentage.
Not only did Myers make consistent hard contact in 2020, but he also managed to put up his lowest chase rate (25.8%) since 2016.
Additionally, after years of running ground ball percentages over 40%, he had what I would call the perfect batted ball split in 2020: plenty of line drives (23.4%) and flies (38.3%) and a relatively low percentage of worm-killers (38.3%).
He has more than enough raw power to keep hitting homers as long as he keeps the ball off the ground, which he managed to do last year.
Wil Myers’ 2021 fantasy baseball outlook
Of course, it’s hard to keep those rates and percentages elevated for a full season. As Richards notes in his August article, Myers had an 8.5% SwStr% at that moment, and he finished a 60-game season at 10.8%. But Myers has a plan and he is sticking to it, and for the most part, it worked for him. The cited article shows a more skeptical tone regarding Myers’ outlook, which is completely understandable and within the realm of possibilities. But I like what the outfielder has achieved at the plate and am willing to invest, as I think the changes he adopted can continue to bring positive results as long as he gets more familiar with them.
He is already hitting homers in Spring Training action. I know we have to take spring stats with a grain of salt, but it’s good to see him raking so early. It’s encouraging, to say the least.
All in all, I think Myers can be a .260-.270 type of hitter with 30 home runs and somewhere in the neighborhood of 12-15 stolen bases. In a solid Padres lineup where he should play mostly every day, his chances of scoring and driving in runs will also be there. He is, to me, a bargain at his current 130 ADP.