When A.J. Preller and the San Diego Padres traded for Wil Myers about 14 months ago, his position was not yet determined. Having already traded for Matt Kemp, the Padres were aware that Wil Myers would not be in right field. Right field was a position that Myers played the most in his first two big league seasons.
The common thought at the time was that Myers would play left field. Well, a few days later, the Padres traded for Justin Upton, so that talk quickly simmered down. It was finally concluded at the end of spring training that Wil Myers would be the starting center fielder. Nearly everyone thought it was going to be a disaster, and it kind of was. Myers registered a -8.7 UZR while saving a total of -7 runs. He was a liability, as was the entire outfield.
It was an experiment that just did not work. Myers ended up injuring his wrist two months into the season and was out for quite a while. Upon coming back, he played a lot of first base, and did it very well. He was also quoted as saying he really enjoyed playing first base, too.
With spring training underway, many people are wondering what position Wil Myers will play to begin the season. The Padres have holes at both left field and first base, so in reality Myers could start at either position. Is there a better argument for him at first base or in left field? Well….
Wil Myers belongs at first base. Myers himself said, “This is the first defensive position I’ve found that I really like in professional baseball.” He enjoys that position the most because it is finally a place that he feels confident and free. In seasons previous, he struggled with the outfield, especially reading and taking routes to balls off the bat. It was a problem.
The outfield was also where Myers’ wrist problems began, so that probably explains some of his problems and tentativeness as well. Before him and Desmond Jennings crashed into each other at Fenway Park on May 30th of 2014, Myers had never had a severe injury or had sat out for an extended period of time (from MLB.com):
“I’ve never sat around like this before,” Myers said of his plight. “Never had a cast before, never been hurt for this extended period of time — it stinks. I’m just at the point now where it’s like, ‘Let’s get going.’ I come to the field every day and I have nothing to do — work out for an hour, do some running, then I’m done for the day. It’s just frustrating to sit out there and watch every single day.”
Myers never recovered from that crash with Jennings. He has had problems with the wrist ever since. I am not going to share the video, so you can google it if you wish. Wrist injuries are incredibly tricky, especially for someone like Myers whose swing is especially whip-like and uses a lot of wrist action. Although Myers never stated publicly if he still thinks about that collision when he is out there, I am positive it is still on his mind. At first base, he does not have to worry about crashing into someone at full-speed.
It is safe to say that Myers is relieved that he no longer has to play the outfield. The Yonder Alonso trade all but solidified him at the first base position. A big reason why Preller traded Alonso was because he was blocking Myers from starting every day. Barring a signing, (Pedro Alvarez is still somehow on the market, and Mickey Koke wrote an article on how the Padres should take a look at him)
Myers looks to easily be the favorite to begin as the everyday first baseman. Andy Green saying Derek Norris will not play first base is icing on the cake. Only having to focus on finally playing one position will be the best thing for Myers and his development, as he enters an incredibly important season for his career. As a long time top prospect and now 25 years old, he needs to prove to the baseball world that he can stay healthy and have a great year. I believe that he will do both.
With a full spring training to work on his first base defense, Myers should be more than capable of handling the duties and improve on his defense from last year. He did impress and improve there in a small amount of time.
In 165 innings at first base last year, Myers did not commit an error. He even had a positive UZR at 0.2 and a 1.7 UZR/150. The only time he had ever played first base in the majors before that was in Tampa Bay in 2014, where he logged a grand total of four innings. He has only been playing first base in professional baseball for about two years.
All signs point to Myers as the starting first baseman and Brett Wallace as the backup. Myers may play a little left field this year, but it will not be much. The Padres are all in on Wil Myers: First Baseman. We should all expect Myers to be ready to go full-speed come April 4 at Petco Park.