The One That Amost Got Away – Wil Myers Edition
The post-hype prospect is the “one that got away” of fantasy baseball. Your relationship with that player has been broken for a while, but when you are alone, you can’t resist watching his highlight videos on YouTube and obsessing over his subtle bat flips. You daydream about his 6-hit, 6-power combo starting to click and the .400 wOBA seasons ahead. There is no way that this guy can’t be the one. Look at what he did to minor league pitching. Look at the MLB debut. This was a monster, can’t-miss prospect. He had very few weaknesses.
After being selected 91st overall in 2009 by Kansas City, Wil Myers ravaged minor league pitching to the tune of .300/.393/.525 before his call-up in June of 2013. He was universally ranked as a top 10 overall prospect prior to that season, ranking #4 at Baseball America, #7 at Baseball Prospectus and #7 at Minor League Ball. After 64 games at Triple-A Durham, where he was on base nearly 42% of the time while slugging .542, Myers forced his way into the Tampa Bay lineup. He sprayed line drives and home runs to all fields and his strikeout rate didn’t increase. In his 88-game Major League debut, he did exactly what you hoped he would. He hit .293/.354/.478, good for a 129 wRC+. That number ranked in the top 40 of all MLB hitters with at least 350 plate appearances. When it was all over, in 2013, the 22-year-old had hit 27 home runs and stolen 12 bases in 152 games between AAA and MLB. He was on his way to stardom and we ranked him 43rd overall in the top 500 before the 2014 season.
Reality is always up for a good sucker-punch.
Myers had a minor injury early in the spring of 2014 to his thigh and got sick four days into the season. No one knows for sure if that had anything to do with his abysmal performance in his 224 plate appearances before fracturing his wrist on the last day of May in 2014. When he returned from the injury, he hit .213/263/.268 in his final 137 plate appearances of that year, but the injury can almost certainly be blamed for that. He was traded to San Diego a few months later. Myers started 2015 in San Diego with a solid .277/.327/.459 slash in 159 plate appearances before heading to the DL once again with a sore wrist that eventually led to surgery. He returned to play about a month’s worth of games and hit well, but not great.
Myers has a glaring, obvious weakness. He makes contact at a below average rate. It’s not a shockingly scary number, but it’s a concern. His contact rate of 75.5 percent ranks 197th out of 243 hitters with at least 950 plate appearances since 2013. The league hovers around 78 or 79 percent. The injuries to his wrist certainly didn’t help, but he has raised that number incrementally each year and he finished 2015 with a contact rate of 76.3 percent.
The good news is that Myers has never, will never and doesn’t need to make contact at an above average rate. His profile can work. To make it work, one must lay off of pitches out of the strike zone and hit the snot out of the ball when contact is made.
This is where I’m going to get crazy. You have been warned. The player that I keep coming back to is Bryce Harper. Myers is obviously a bit older, but they both flew through the minors on the back of prodigious power potential.
Since the moment Myers debuted, this is how their profiles compare: (This includes Harper’s 2015 MVP season)
Player Contact % O-Swing% Z-Contact% Soft%
Harper 75.2 32.0 84.5 14.3
Myers 75.5 27.7 85.6 12.7
Wil Myers makes slightly more contact overall, swings at fewer pitches out of the zone, makes more contact on balls swung at in the zone and fewer balls leave his bat classified as softly hit.
Myers and Harper also compare favorably in the exit velocity and home run distance departments. Based on 2015 data pulled from BaseballSavant.com:
Player Avg LD/FB MPH Avg HR feet
Harper 94.33 381.29
Myers 94.82 422.33
22-year-old players don’t do what Myers did in 2013 very often. Historic isn’t the appropriate word, but it was the 135th best season for a player that age or younger with at least 350 plate appearances in MLB history. His 129 wRC+ tied Miguel Cabrera’s 2004 age-21 season that vaulted him to stardom. Players this talented will hit and injuries are the only thing that stops them. Even with the injuries, Myers played at a 20 home run, 12 stolen base pace last year. The move to first base seems like quite a bummer on the surface, but I can’t imagine a front office tanking a player’s value with Myers’ athletic ability so early in his career.
I am not concluding that Myers is going to blow up and have one of the best seasons ever. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Myers is a perennial top 30 hitter from this point forward. Myers has dropped all the way to 250th in our top 500. If you can convince your league’s owner to sell at that price, there is almost zero chance you will regret it.