The San Diego Padres are waiting for Wil Myers to put it all together. He has so much potential, but can be one of the more frustrating players to watch daily. Is there still time for Myers to breakout in 2019?
It truly is amazing how quickly things change.
In the case of Wil Myers, he’s gone from the face of the Padres’ franchise to a player who doesn’t even play every day for the team.
The signings of Eric Hosmer and Manny Machado have made shifted the focus of the media away from Myers, which is unrelated to his performance. The reality is that Myers has shown the ability to be just as valuable as the players above, but simply hasn’t performed very well offensively since his 2016 All-Star campaign. Above all else, his failure to hit with consistency has resulted in his decreased role in 2019.
This season, his hitting has only worsened due to a sharp decline in his ability to make contact at the plate.
Taking a look at the data across his entire career, it’s very clear that something is up with Myers. Here are his contact percentages this season compared with his career contact numbers up until 2019:
|Season(s)||Outside Contact%||Zone Contact%||Contact%|
Especially on pitches in the zone, and on pitches overall, Myers has struggled mightily to make contact in 2019. What have been the consequences of this lack of contact? To start, it’s resulted in Myers posting the highest strikeout rate among all qualified hitters in baseball at 36.8%. Further exacerbating the 28-year-old’s troubles has been an increase in pull percentage on his batted balls. When Myers is at his best, he’s known as a player who can hit the ball where it’s pitched. That’s another thing he’s failed to do well this year and has hurt his production as well.
Here’s a spray chart of Myers’ hits in 2018, compared with the same chart of hits in 2019:
So clearly Myers needs to hit more pitches thrown on the outside part of the plate. Continuing to pull the ball will only make it easier for pitchers to attack him, and for teams to employ the shift against Myers.
These heatmaps illustrate the pitch locations of Myers’ base hits in 2018 and 2019, compared side-by-side:
Unfortunately for Myers, he’s had a tough time hitting the ball in the upper and lower parts of the zone, which is a part of why he’s slumping at the plate. There’s only a small area in the heatmap on the right where Myers has had success, which is noticeably different than on the left. As a hitter, he hasn’t ever looked worse in his career than he does right now.
It hasn’t been all negative for Myers this season, though. He has seen a good amount of time in center field, as well as left field. While earlier in his career he rated out negatively as a defender, Myers has shown himself to be a very capable defender of late. He’s been worth 2.4 runs defensively according to Fangraphs, which ranks as 22nd best among all defenders in baseball. The Rays’ defensive extraordinaire Kevin Kiermaier has been worth 2.6 runs, to put Myers’ defensive performance in perspective.
Looking at his Statcast numbers, Myers has been among the best outfielders in all of baseball thus far in 2019. Let’s start with the outs above average leaderboard. He ranks fourth behind Byron Buxton, Lewis Brinson, and George Springer with a 94% catch percentage. This is because Myers has rated out as having very good speed, according to Statcast. His sprint speed of 28.6 feet per second is in the 88th percentile of all major leaguers. Myers’ speed is undoubtedly an asset, especially if he can provide the Padres with strong outfield defense and base running.
If there’s anything we’ve learned about Wil Myers over the years, it’s that he’s a player with a wide range of outcomes. The Padres have moved him all over the field despite him being one of the most essential hitters on the team, during the 2018 season. His performance has also been all over the place, though.
What is most intriguing about Myers is that he has never put it all together. When he’s hit well in a given year, he hasn’t been very impressive defensively. In his 2016 All-Star campaign, he was playing average-at-best defense at first base. His lack of hitting in 2019 has been contrasted with his excellent fielding as an outfielder. Given that he’s now 28 and hasn’t done so, it’s unlikely he’ll ever play particularly well in each facet of his game.
However, the possibility of Myers potentially being a five-tool kind of player is not as far-fetched as one may think. As the Padres become increasingly relevant, there’s never been a better time for someone like Myers to break out. With more talent around him than ever before, it’s also reasonable to expect him to perform like a star player with the Padres sometime soon. Among the many players with high potential on the Padres, Myers is one of the X-factors on the team who can push the team towards the playoffs if he plays well.