Could Rays’ Wil Myers Be Even Better Than We Thought?

By Robbie Knopf

With Wil Myers coming to the major leagues, Rays fans are expecting to see a player who will be a cornerstone of their franchise for years to come. They expect Myers to make that happen primarily with his bat. After Myers hit .314 with 37 home runs in 2012, the Rays are hoping to get a player who can complement Evan Longoria as another excellent pure hitter with ridiculous power. But when Myers actually arrives, Rays fans will be pleasantly surprised by two more things: Myers’ defense and his speed.

You may now that Wil Myers was originally a catcher before the Royals moved him to the outfield in his third pro season in 2011. That immediately creates a misconception: since catchers can’t run, clearly Myers has well below-average speed. This season, though, as the Rays made Myers focus on his defense and baserunning as he prepared for the major leagues, Myers has proved that he has was never your typical catcher.

In a recent four-game stretch, Myers stole four bases. Catchers aren’t supposed to do anything like that and that was the first time Myers pulled off that feat in his career. On the season, Myers has seven stolen bases in eight attempts, showing that while he will always be known for his bat, you can’t underestimate his speed. Myers certainly isn’t a burner, but he is an athletic 6’3″, 205 with solid speed and instincts that the Rays have worked hard to hone. That doesn’t mean that Myers will be even close to a prolific basestealer–but he could be a player who steals 10 bases at a high percentage, and the Rays will take every extra base they can take. Evan Longoria stole 16 bases without getting caught in his first two major league seasons before swiping 15 out of 20 in his third. Myers could be the same type of basestealer.

It says a lot about Myers’ speed as well that the Royals placed him in centerfield for a time and believed that he would eventually be an average defender there. The Royals could very well have been wrong, but Myers has the range to be a strong right fielder, and don’t forget about his arm. The Royals put him behind the plate because of his outstanding arm strength, and while he didn’t register an outfield assist during his time in Durham, he has 6 in 149 games in right field and should only nail down more runners as he gets used to the position. Myers may not be a Gold Glover, but he has the legs and the arm to be an above-average defender.

Combining Myers’ speed, arm, and defensive ability makes him a player who is average or better in all five tools and a force to be reckoned with in every phase of the game. Even if he steals 25 bases and guns down runner after runner in right field, he’ll be renowned across baseball for his bat. But even as he stars at the plate, Rays fans will continuously notice that there’s a lot more to Wil Myers than just a middle-of-the-order hitter.