Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Wil Myers took the league by storm last year when he finished the 2012 season with a .314/.387/.600 slash line and 37 HR’s while splitting time between AA and AAA in the Kansas City Royals organization. Myers was traded in the offseason to the Tampa Bay Rays as the center piece of a deal with James Shields headed to the Royals. The Rays gave up a franchise cornerstone in Shields, so in acquiring Myers they expect an impact bat for years to come. However, Myers has some doubters about the holes in his swing, who figure he could become the next Jeff Francoeur. As a minor leaguer, Myers had a career slash line of .300/.389/.522 compared to Francoeur’s line of .284/.331/.477. Myers’ stats look slightly better at first glance, and Francoeur never had a season that resembled Myers’s 2012. So the question is, is Myers the real deal or will he be a bust like Francoeur?
When dealing with prospects and young players, there is no certainty. Rays fans will remember Delmon Young, the number 1 overall pick in the 2003 draft, who received Mickey Mantle comparisons in high school. Young has been a regular in the majors, but never attained his Mickey Mantle potential. For two reasons, Myers is not likely to become a bust as Jeff Francoeur did.
One reason Myers may not become a bust is his ability to provide value by getting on base. Myers’ career on base percentage as a minor leaguer of .389 was considerably better than Francoeur’s .331 on base percentage. As a big believer in on base percentage, I believe that Myers provides much more value with the ability to draw a walk. Even if Myers does not reach his full power potential, a player that can get on base is always very valuable to his team. Francoeur, on the other hand, relied on his power to provide value to his team. Therefore when Francoeur’s power failed in the big leagues, he had no way to provide value for his team. Not only did that make him a fairly worthless player, but it also put sustained pressure on him to provide power. If Myers has a time when his power fails, he has enough value with on base percentage to not have sustained pressure to constantly hit home runs.
Secondly, Myers was given proper time to develop in the minor leagues while Francoeur was rushed. Francoeur reached the majors at the age of 21, having played 369 minor league games, with none of those coming in AAA. Myers, on the other hand, reached the majors at age 22, having played 445 minor league games, 163 of these coming in AAA. Myers had more experience than Francouer at a higher level when entering the major leagues. Because of this, Myers will be more prepared to deal with the ups and downs of the major leagues than Francoeur. After having a solid first two and a half seasons in the big leagues, Francoeur began to struggle and never recovered except for a fluke season with the Royals in 2011. Myers experience in the minors will help to prevent a breakdown of this sort.
There is a chance that Wil Myers, just as with every other young player, could become a bust. However, Myers has a better chance of reaching his full potential than Jeff Francoeur did because of his ability to provide value through on base percentage and his greater experience in the minor leagues.