A consistent position to play may help bring out the best in San Diego Padres’ outfielder Wil Myers.
Wil Myers represents the Padres’ mystery player in the article “Each team’s Great Unknown entering season” on MLB.com. By this time the Padres may also consider him the “Great Unknown” on the roster.
Myers has yet to meet his potential. He has been derailed by injuries as well as a lack of focus and intensity at times. But the Padres organization also has to take some responsibility for his failure to play up to his abilities.
Before he was drafted in 2009 by the Kansas City Royals, Baseball America named him “one of the draft’s safer hitters, with a smooth swing he repeats and quick, strong hands….with the bat speed and leverage to produce future power.” That same report suggested he could play all over the field, a mindset the Padres also adopted, to the detriment of the team but probably Myers even more.
Myers moved up through the Royals’ farm system until he was traded to the Rays in December of 2012. He landed with the Padres in December of 2014 as part of general manager A.J. Preller’s almost complete makeover of the roster. Myers was the key piece in a three-team trade that sent catcher Rene Rivera to Tampa Bay, and Joe Ross and Trea Turner to the Nationals.
The inclusion of Turner in the trade has been questioned throughout Major League Baseball, especially since he plays shortstop, a position that had become a black hole for the Padres. Even more galling, Turner came in second behind the Dodgers’ Corey Seager in Rookie of the Year voting in 2016. Myers undoubtedly heard the unflattering comparisons to Turner.
However, the Padres (and Myers) can take comfort in the fact that the stats for both players since the trade look remarkably similar:
Myers 10 WAR .330/.447/.771 OPS+ 111
Turner 10.4 WAR .290/.347/4.60 OPS+ 110
In 2016, Myers made the All-Star Game which just happened to take place in Petco Park. After starting the evening 0-for-2, he smashed a double to right field and became the first Padre’ since Ken Caminiti in 1996 to get an extra-base hit in an All-Star Game. Before the start of the following season, the Padres named Myers the “Face of the Franchise” and signed him to six-year $80 million extension.
In his All-Star year and 2017, Myers played first base in 303 games, dodged the injury bug, and performed well at the plate. However, less than a year later, the Padres signed Eric Hosmer to a much larger deal (eight years at $144 million). At the time, Padres co-owner Ron Fowler remarked that Myers didn’t seem to want to be the guy or a leader in the clubhouse, thereby rescinding the face-of-the-franchise designation. Oh, and by the way, Hosmer would replace Myers at first base and send him to the outfield.
Last season Myers played 41 games in the outfield, mostly in left. Then the team decided to move him to a position of more need, third base, again falling back on their belief that his athleticism would carry him through another change of position. Myers bulked up to 227 to play third, which may have contributed to the injury woes that resulted in three trips to the disabled list. By the end of the season, all parties agreed the third base experiment did not go well.
Finally healthy and back in a familiar spot in the outfield, Myers has started this season showing off his potential. But he, like the other outfielders on the team, will be fighting for playing time. To complicate matters, Travis Jankowski, the only player fully capable of covering center field in Manuel Margot’s place will be out for an extended time thanks to a broken wrist. Undoubtedly Myers will see some time in center.
So far this season (admittedly only five games), his batting line looks downright dazzling: .421/.476/.789 with two home runs, a double and two stolen bases. Of course, he and other holdovers have benefitted from the presence of yet another new guy with an even bigger contract, Manny Machado, as well as top prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. After the first game, Myers told AJ Cassavell of MLB.com, “It’s different. This is a real team. This is a real lineup….This isn’t the team with three Rule-5 players on it. This isn’t the team that’s very inexperienced and young.”
In Sunday’s 3-1 victory against San Francisco, he placed a perfect bunt down the third-base line. Two batters later, he scored on a single by Hedges. In Tuesday’s disheartening 8-5 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Myers came off the bench and promptly hit a home run, one of his two hits.
Since the June 2015 trade that brought Myers to the Padres, he has shown signs of being the star the team counted on him to be, but not consistently. The front office must take some responsibility for his uneven performances by playing him in positions he doesn’t belong, namely center field and third base. If Myers can stay healthy, play left field consistently, and take advantage of the talent around him in the lineup; he just may finally reach his vaunted potential.