No one can doubt that Wil Myers, the American League Rookie of the Year in 2013, has the innate talent to be a star. However, evidence has mounted that Myers stands in his own way and that his main barrier to fulfilling his promise resides in confidence.
The Kansas City Royals drafted Myers in the third round in 2009, then traded him to the Tampa Bay Rays in December of 2012. He started the next season with the Triple-A Durham Bulls, but was called up in June to play right field for the Rays. Despite playing in only 88 games, his performance earned him the ROY award.
In Tampa Bay in 2014, he had a slow start then fractured his right wrist in May and ended the season batting .222 with six home runs in 87 games. Despite his promise, the Rays traded Myers to the Padres at the end of the season. At the time of the trade, rumors indicated that the Rays had become fed up with his work ethic and his general attitude.
Although Myers had played only 38 games in center field, and most of those in the minor leagues, the Padres declared him their center fielder for the 2015 season. He definitely has requisite speed to play center, but he proved to be a defensive liability (-23.7 UZR/150, -7 DRS), albeit in only 60 games. He spent most of year on the disabled list with wrist problems and didn’t return until early September.
In 2016, the Padres moved Myers to first base. He played in 157 games and was named an All-Star. The first half of the season, Myers batted .286 with a .873 OPS, but after the All-Star break, his OPS dipped to .797.
For the first time, fans got a glimpse of the inner workings of the star they hoped he’d be. Myers candidly admitted to reporters that he slacked off the rest of the season. Perhaps the Padres’ front office should have paid more attention to the warning signs in that admission, but instead, the team signed him to a six-year, $83 million contract, the largest contract in the team’s history at the time. Then, the team doubled down and designated Myers as the “face of the franchise”.
In 2016, Myers had been a finalist for the NL Gold Glove award at first base, but instead of repeating his solid performance, he regressed defensively in 2017 (1 DRS, -7.5 UZR/150). However, in 155 games he batted .243/.328/.464 with 30 home runs.
Then in February this year, the face of the franchise became a bit of an afterthought when the Padres acquired first baseman Eric Hosmer in an eight-year, $144 million deal that dwarfed the Myers’ contract. That moved forced Myers back to the outfield, but he has played only nine games this season and is currently on the disabled list with an oblique injury.
In right field for his career, Myers has below average defensive numbers (-10 DRS, -0.6 UZR -1.5 UZR/150), although not as subpar as his stats in center. When he finally returns from the disabled list, the Padres will have to deal with the glut of outfielders on the active roster. In the meantime, Travis Jankowski, Hunter Renfroe, and Franmil Reyes have manned right.
Feeling the need to bulk up to make the move to the outfield, Myers seemed to blame his current injury on his offseason workout program (as reported by Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune). In other words, in Myers’ view, he’d be just fine if the Padres hadn’t moved him off of first base.
Even more importantly, Myers has repeatedly said that he gets “bored” in the outfield. Earlier in the season, when Hosmer went on family medical leave, Myers returned to first. “I’m excited about it,” Myers told Acee of the UT “First base is a position I really enjoy. … It’s too boring out there in the outfield.”
At least Myers has a team-friendly contract through 2019. But the year after that, the amount jumps to $20 million. Beginning in 2020, the Padres will be in uncharted territory with two players (Myers and Hosmer) earning a combined $40 million through 2022.
Obviously, the front office has had second thoughts about Myers. However, even if the team decided to try to trade him, his value would be low thanks to his injury history, his inconsistency, his contract, and his attitude.
Baseball has been a part of Diane’s life since her father played professionally (mostly at the minor league level). She has written for a number of publications and concentrated on companion animal welfare. She welcomes the opportunity to write about the sport she loves. Diane shares her home with her husband and a house full of rescued animals.