Wil Myers has played defense in 629 games across six different positions, but can centerfield be the spot he fits into over the next several years?
When Wil Myers first came to the Padres in the three-team trade in 2015, he was fresh off an AL Rookie of the Year campaign in which he made the majority of his starts in right field. The Padres, however, slid him over to centerfield where he made 38 of his 44 appearances before eventually being shifted over to first base.
First base appeared to be the long-lost position for Myers; he spent the next two years gathering up 303 games of experience. Although he only appeared as the DH, it was while playing first base in 2016 when Myers represented the Padres at the 2016 All-Star game here in beautiful San Diego. That would all change when the Padres signed the four-time Gold Glove first baseman Eric Hosmer to an eight-year contract.
Since then, Wil has made just three appearances at first base with the majority of playing time (68 games) coming in the corner outfield spots. This year however the former-ROY has made 12 appearances at CF, the most since his first year in San Diego. This begs the question, can Wil Myers be the Padres long-term plan at center field?
We all know that Manny Margot has been the main guy for the Friars in center, but the Padres need to figure out where Wil fits into the plans over the next three years. Myers is set to earn $22,500,000 per year through the 2022 season before a $20M team option in 2023. So it’s a priority for the Friars to find some consistency for the one-time all-star.
Before we jump into Wil Myers numbers at center, it’s essential to take a look at which statistics matter the most for outfielders. Primarily, defensive runs for outfielders and looking at three main factors: plus/minus runs saved, runs saved by arm of the outfielder, and runs saved by robbing hitters of hits and home runs. Enhanced plus/minus factors into defensive runs for outfielders ability to save bases. More specifically, how often do runners either attempt or not attempt to stretch their hits?
This is included in the stat we will be using to compare Myers to Margot and other center fielders across the league, Total Zone Total Fielding Runs (Rtot). This is, according to Sean Smith of BaseballProjection.com, “the number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made.”
In his last 13 center field appearances, all appearances since switching over to first base, Myers has been worth exactly zero Rtot. Which means Myers has been either above average or below average at center field for the Padres. Manny Margot, on the other hand, has a Rtot of six this season, meaning he has been above average when comparing him to the rest of the league.
To give you guys something to compare Myers and Margot to; looking at possibly the best CF in our generation, Mike Trout is sporting a Rtot of five this season. Last years gold glover at CF, Jackie Bradley Jr., rocked an incredible 22 Rtot throughout the season.
When looking at consistency, Myers’ fielding percentage is at a low .964 but with just 28 chances this season (26 putouts, 1 assist, 1 error). His career fielding percentage at CF is a solid .992, which is the highest for him across all three outfield spots. For those who are wondering, Manny Margot’s fielding percentage is .992 for his career at center field with just six career errors (0 E, 1.000 field% this season).
All these numbers are telling us three things, Wil in centerfield does not hurt the Padres and Wil in center does not increase the likely hood of the Padres winning. However, the third thing is what sways the decision, just looking at the numbers Manny Margot is the guy to go to at center as he does increase the Friars chance at winning.
As we all know the numbers only tell so much of the story. When Wil is center, he looks comfortable and confident. There were several times that despite just starting 12 games in center, he made a strong case to showcase his ability to move from left center to right center. There are even a couple of instances where he ran far enough into his fellow outfielder’s side of the field and stuck to his decision to track down the fly ball (just ask Franmil Reyes).
With all the infield positions looking to be locked down for a majority of this decade, it’s crucial that the Padres find a spot in the outfield where Myers is comfortable. With guys like Franmil Reyes and Hunter Renfroe making their cases to lock down corner outfield spots, Manny Margot still making a case for himself in center, and five outfielders in the Padres top-30 prospects list it’s only a matter of time before all three spots are filled in.
Where will Myers be in that outfield? The answer to that question may just be center field, but the answer will become more clear as the season drags on.