Wil Myers was 0 for 3 and the Durham Bulls were losing 8-4 to the Buffalo Bisons, getting outscored 8-1 since the first inning. But the way Myers was playing, Buffalo was only going to be able to contain him for so long. In the 7th inning, Myers pulled Durham within 8-6 on a long 2-run home run to left-center. And in the 9th, Myers tied the game on yet another 2-run home run to set up the Bulls’ walk-off victory. That’s just how it has been going for opposing teams against Myers lately–he’s on fire and it’s only a matter of time before his next hit comes around. Over the last week, he’s hitting .393 with 5 home runs, 3 doubles, and 15 RBI in 6 games, collecting a hit in each game and multiple hits in his last four contests. This is the player the Rays were certain they acquired for James Shields, a force in the middle of their Triple-A team’s lineup soon to fulfill the same role in the major leagues. How he got to this point, though, was far from according to plan.
The 2013 season has been quite a roller coaster for Wil Myers. He reached base in each of the Bulls’ first 19 games, hitting .333 with a .432 OBP in 88 plate appearances, yet he didn’t hit for any power at all, managing just 4 doubles and 2 home runs. After a 2012 season that saw Myers hit 37 home runs, Rays fans were quite confused but were confident that just like Evan Longoria at the major league level, his power stroke would come along. Instead, Myers stopped hitting completely. Over his next 22 games, he slipped to a .167/.258/.262 line in 97 plate appearances, managing just 2 doubles and 2 home runs. He struck out 26 times versus just 10 walks over that stretch and Rays fans began to panic. Myers had great power, but would he make enough contact to make it materialize in games? If he couldn’t hit at Triple-A, how could he possibly do anything in the major leagues? Had the Rays traded Mr. Reliable in their rotation, James Shields, for a prospect who was going to be nothing more than a disappointment? And then the last week happened. Myers has hit more home runs in his last 6 games than he did in his previous 41. But is it just another streak that’s going to coming an end, a transient glimmer of the potential he’ll never be able to achieve for extended period of time? Maybe, but this time it’s something different.
In the last week, Myers has struck out 5 times without walking. Right before the streak, though, something shifted for Myers. He hit just .161 in the 8 games before his recent burst began, but he struck out just 7 times versus 5 walks. He was seeing the ball better and making more contact. Myers’ has been much maligned for striking out too much yet in his last 14 games has struck out in just 12 of 66 plate appearances, an 18.2% clip that’s a few ticks less than league average and excellent for a power hitter. That came after he struck out 44 times in 148 PA’s, a scary 29.7%. The probability of the same player managing both of those streaks is just .038 (26 to 1 odds), a statistically significant value. Myers has to prove over the next few weeks that he really has made an improvement and is ready to start reaching his potential in the major leagues. However, after just how impressive he has looked of late, it seems everything like his breakthrough is real.
For all of his efforts, Wil Myers is still going to have to wait. With the Rays offense playing well and certainly not desperate for a savior, the Rays have no incentive at all to bring up Myers before the Super Two deadline passes in mid-June and cost themselves some money in the process. Even as well as the Rays lineup has done, Myers could certainly make it better and it has to be annoying for Rays to know that Myers will remain in the minor leagues nevertheless in large part because of financial considerations. When you think about it, though, this was the predicament fans knew they would be in right from the start. He took a roundabout route to get to this point, but Myers has ended up right where we thought he would be. Obviously the Rays wish that Myers could have been playing as well as he is now for the entire season, but they couldn’t possibly complain about everything he has done. As Myers sits on the cusp of the major leagues, the nervousness and disappointment fans couldn’t help but feel is disappearing and the excitement is coming right back in.