Whenever a top prospect comes to the major leagues, it’s very easy to begin idealizing him and thinking that he’s going to be an all-time great. Every player, though, has his flaws and for Wil Myers, that’s striking out. Myers had 71 strikeouts during his time at Triple-A, the third-highest total in the International League and a scary 24.6% of his plate appearances. Could Myers propensity for strikeouts allow big league pitchers to overpower him much more than we expect in his major league debut?
Considering how much Myers has struck out at Triple-A, the reality is that strikeouts may always be part of his game. It was telling that even during his recent hot streak where he hit .354 with 10 home runs, Myers still struck out in 20 of his 104 plate appearances, a 19.2% rate that’s right around league average. However, there is nothing with striking out a little too much as long as you’re a power hitter, and that is certainly the case with Myers. The real issue is when strikeouts are indicative of something else: sub-par patience and pitch recognition. For Myers, that is not what’s going on. Myers averaged 3.79 pitches per plate appearance according to Minor League Central, just below the IL average of 3.83, and he swung at just 8.5% of pitches out of the zone, noticeably better than the 11.2% league average. Both of those numbers are inflated because the Bulls are an excellent hitting team, but Myers does not have any significant problem at the plate that will prevent him from succeeding in the major leagues.
Even if Myers should be fine moving forward, it begs an obvious question: if Myers struggled with strikeouts at Triple-A, isn’t that something that will only be exacerbated more in the majors? That brings us to this quote from Andrew Friedman after the announcement that Myers was getting called up.
“He made some real adjustments in the last six weeks,” Friedman said. “That really stood out to us, and that was something that we were really monitoring very closely.”
How did Myers adjust? Triple-A hitters were giving him a steady diet of breaking pitches out of the zone, and as the season went on, he did an increasingly better job laying off of them He did a great job adapting to what pitchers were throwing to him, and considering how talented Myers is, you have to believe that he will continue to adapt in the major leagues. Myers still has some work to do. Even though he did a great job laying off of pitches outside the zone, he made contact just 27.5% of the time compared to the 41.6% league average, a cause of plenty of his strikeouts. It’s a situation where Myers may not be swinging at those nasty breaking pitches as often, but he still can’t find a way to square them up even when they’re not as sharp. But the common saying goes “teach him to hit the fastball–he’ll come up here (to the major leagues) and learn to hit the breaking ball.” That is exactly the game plan that Myers hopes to follow.
Few players come to the major leagues as a finished product. Wil Myers is certainly no exception. He is striking out too much right now and that may limit has ability to hit for average early on in his career. However, there is no problem that won’t be fixed with coaching and experience and Rays fans have every reason to be excited about what he can do. Maybe Myers won’t be an all-time great when it’s all said in done. If he adjusts well enough, though, he just might be.