Before the 2012 MLB Season, if you asked someone about the top two outfield prospects in baseball, everyone would name the exact same two players: Mike Trout of the Angels and Bryce Harper of the Nationals. The pairing proceeded to win the Rookie of the Year awards in the American and National Leagues respectively, with Trout even finishing second in the AL MVP voting. With Trout and Harper going from highly-touted prospects to two of the most talented players in baseball, who’s next on the horizon? Well, with apologies to the Cardinals’ Oscar Taveras, if you ask someone to name the top outfield prospect in baseball, almost everyone will name Rays prospect Wil Myers. With Myers set to make his major league debut in 2013, does he have the ability to be just as good as Trout and Harper and immediately change the landscape of baseball when he arrives in the big leagues?
Expecting Myers to instantly come up and become an AL MVP frontrunner like Trout is delusions of grandeur. Even expecting him to immediately play as good as Harper is a risky proposition- even Trout hit just .220 in his first exposure to the major leagues in 2011, showing that even players who have everything it takes to become major league superstars can struggle mightily early on. But while we can’t expect too much from Myers too soon, he compares very favorably with Trout and Harper from the scope of their numbers in their last full minor league season before their rookie year.
Looking at those stats, three things immediately stand out: Myers showed substantially more power than Trout and Harper, his speed is much less of a factor, and most importantly, he struck out at alarming rate, especially when trying to compare him to the impossible standard of Trout and Harper. Myers cutting down on the strikeouts is going to be the key for him moving forward, and the Rays likely won’t call him up until they believe the problem is fixed. Myers’ speed isn’t a big part of his game, and even his biggest supporters will admit that he can’t be a 5-tool player like Trout and Harper. But given that Myers has so much more power, who’s to say that he can’t be just about as good of an all-around player and maybe even put it all together immediately? Well, the key difference between Myers and Trout and Harper is that Myers just turned 22 and still hasn’t debuted in the major leagues- Trout is just 21 and is coming off an unbelievable season, and Harper is just 20 even after his great rookie year. It would be impressive for a player of any age to put up Myers’ numbers at Triple-A, but when Trout and Harper tore up the minor leagues at just 19 and 18 years old respectively, that was something really special. Wil Myers is a really good player and a potential superstar right fielder, but he’s no transcendent talent.
One other thing to note, though, is that the highest level Trout and Harper reached in their final full minor league season was Double-A (Harper spent most of the season at Low-A). Myers put his numbers up primarily at Triple-A, and that gives him a leg up. In terms of his future, Myers’ age certainly means his upside is a great deal lower than Trout and Harper. But at the same time, his greater experience gives him the ability to be more comfortable in the major leagues as soon as he arrives and deliver a really good rookie season. He’s not going to be competing for the AL MVP award anytime soon. However, a season like Harper’s rookie year minus the speed, say a .275/.345/.475 line with 20 home runs, is not something out of the realm of possibility for Myers, and the chances of it happening may even be more likely than it was for Harper. Myers is never going to be that guy who could hit .330 with 35 home runs, 60 stolen bases, and ridiculous defense like Trout might someday (he came awfully close his rookie year) and he’s not going to hit .320 with 50 home runs and 25 stolen bases like Harper has a chance to do. However, he has the ability to be a really good player and soon, and even if Trout and Harper will almost certainly outperform him in the long-term, Myers has the ability to put up rookie numbers within their stratosphere. Will it happen? Myers has plenty more risk than Harper and Trout did and there are certainly no guarantees with him. Nevertheless, though, the chances of him immediately blossoming into one of the top outfielders in baseball from his first day in the major leagues could be much higher than we think.