Wil Myers is back again. One season after winning the AL Rookie of the Year award, Myers finds himself in a Triple-A Durham uniform awaiting another big league chance. The circumstances are certainly divergent, though, from when Myers was at Durham awaiting a call-up. Instead of looking for a specific improvement in his pitch recognition or a decrease in his strikeout rate, the Rays are waiting for Myers to be fully recovered from his wrist injury and able to give their offense a boost. The irony, though, is that despite Myers’ second Durham stint being different from the first in several ways, one key aspect remains nearly identical: the combination of exhilaration and risk associated with his major league return.
Myers’ time with the Rays this season prior to his injury could have certainly been worse. He hit to a .227/.313/.354 line, which actually amounts to an 89 OPS+ in the pitcher-friendly confines of Tropicana Field. He showed a little more plate discipline and a touch more aggressiveness on the basepaths, and he increased his versatility by playing some first base. No matter how many excuses we want to make, however, he was a major disappointment. The fact that both Evan Longoria and Wil Myers have suffered power outages this season is an unfortunate coincidence that has left the Rays’ postseason hopes hanging by a thread. We all have heard about Myers’ raw power and the different sound that the ball makes off his bat, but this sophomore slump season has reminded us that it all means nothing if he fails to adapt as major league pitchers discover his flaws. We can’t say from 224 disastrous plate appearances that Myers is incapable of doing that. Myers could very well come back to the Rays with a vengeance and resume looking like the potential superstar we know has the ability to be. But now we have to ask the question that we unremittingly pushed out of our minds after Myers’ great first season: what if he falls short of those expectations?
It is not solely Wil Myers’ fault that the Rays were 23-32 with him and are 34-28 since. Just because the Rays’ outfield production actually improved since Myers got injured thanks to the emergence of Kevin Kiermaier and Brandon Guyer does not mean that Myers will drag the group down we he comes back. Nevertheless, our faith in Myers is not as strong as it once was. We have to ask whether the centerpiece of the James Shields trade–which was once infamous for the Kansas City Royals, but is now debatable–will become that player we all thought he would be for the long-term. We have seen the talent of Myers, but the difference between now and 14 months ago is that now we have seen how his career could fall apart. These few rehab games in Durham will be the last time Wil Myers gets to relax before he returns to the big leagues, where the questions will start immediately if he does not perform. The time for idealizing Myers is ending, and the time for cynicism will be the moment he comes back. Can Myers overcome it and surpass our hopes once again?
Wil Myers returns to the Tampa Bay Rays hoping to be a season savior for the second time. We know that he is capable of being exactly that, and these next couple months may be Myers’ proclamation to all of baseball that it will not be long before he ranks among baseball’s best players. However, our sky-high expectations contain a hint of realism this time–that nagging feeling in the recesses of our minds that we may be counting on Wil Myers for too much.