How does Wil Myers project as an MLB player? (Photo credit)
The Tampa Bay Rays 22-year-old top prospect Wil Myers is finally coming to the Majors after destroying the minor leagues for the past month. He will be joining an offense that has struggled in the past few years, but has been the sixth best run scoring offense in baseball this season. Rays fans hope Myers can immediately help continue this improved run production and keep the Rays offense rolling.
The only problem is that the success of the offense this season has been attributed to the fact that the Rays have struck out the eighth least in baseball, but this is something that figures to change with the addition of Myers. Last season with the Royals’ AAA affiliate in Omaha, Myers struck out in 23.3% of his at bats. He has continued that trend in with the Rays’ AAA affiliate in Durham, striking out in 24.7% of his at bats.
But, Myers is still considered a top prospect despite these strikeout numbers because of two things: power and plate discipline. Myers walked in 10.3% of his at bats last season and again, that trend has continued this year as he is walking in 10.1% of his at bats. With his .284 batting average this season, it makes his on base percentage a solid .354. Although getting on base is great, and the ultimate goal for a hitter, it is not the main reason Wil Myers is a top prospect.
Before Myers hit an extremely impressive and eye opening 37 home runs last season, he was not seen on many prospect lists. Now Myers is featured in almost every prospect list’s top-5 and has not disappointed by hitting 14 home runs in AAA this season in just 252 at bats. With enough tape measure blasts that have set the bull off in Durham (yes, that is not just from the movie Bull Durham), it is evident that he has the physical strength to get the ball out of any park. The only problem is his strikeout rate and determining how that will project into the major league level.
When people think big home run numbers and a lot of walks, generally two players names come to mind: Adam Dunn and Mark Reynolds. While Myers may be a bigger prospect than these two ever were, it is still interesting to look at how their minor league numbers compare and what that could mean for Myers in the major leagues.
There are some big differences that must be noted, though. Adam Dunn only had 210 at bats in AAA and Mark Reynolds never even played in AAA, making the jump straight from AA to the MLB. Myers had 640 AAA at bats split between the Rays and Royals systems which can make the comparisons a little bit tricky, but the numbers can still be valuable.
In Reynolds’ last full season in the minors, also his age 22 season, he split time between A+ and AA and had a combined total of 109 strikeouts in 387 at bats. Dunn, splitting time between AA and AAA, struck out 82 times in 350 at bats. The year before though, at A, Dunn struck out 101 times in 420 at bats. These types of numbers would usually keep a player stuck in the minors until they figure out how to make more contact.
However, once one sees Reynolds and Dunn’s home run and walk production, opinions quickly change. In their same respective seasons, Reynolds hit 31 home runs and walked 52 times while Dunn hit 32 home runs and walked 62 times. Dunn also walked an amazing 100 times the year before when he had struck out 101 times.
The question now is: how does Wil Myers fit into all of this? Last season, Myers split time between AA and AAA and struck out 140 times in 522 at bats. Most people were able to look past this because he also hit 37 home runs and walked 61 times. So far this year, the strikeout numbers have gotten worse, as he has whiffed 71 times in 252 at bats.
Despite the strikeouts, though, Myers still put up the numbers of a traditional power hitter, mashing 14 home runs and walking 29 times this season in AAA. How will this translate to the major league level? The best way to attempt to answer this question is to see how comparable minor league players Reynolds and Dunn have fared in the major leagues.
Reynolds has spent the beginning of his career setting MLB records. Unfortunately for Reynolds, these records involve him striking out. In 3,204 career at bats, Reynolds has found a way to strike out 1,201 times, with a high of 223 in 2009 when he had 578 at bats. No one expects Myers to strike out at a rate quite like this, but the reason that Reynolds was twentieth in the MVP voting in 2009 was because he also hit 44 home runs and walked 76 times. Astonishingly, Reynolds has been able to hit 195 home runs in less than seven full seasons in the major leagues despite the .235 batting average he has for his career.
Dunn, since joining the MLB in 2001, has struck out in 28.3% of his at bats and has a career .238 batting average. While these are obviously not impressive numbers, Dunn also has 424 career home runs and has walked an unheard of 16.1% of his at bats in his 13 major league seasons. While Myers does not project to walk in 16.1% of his at bats, he does project to hit for a higher average than .238. The questions this brings up for Myers are: will he be striking out somewhere near 28.3% of his at bats and, more importantly, will he have the power capable of hitting 424 home runs 13 seasons?
This is where the biggest difference between Reynolds, Dunn, and Myers is because Myers has consistently hit for a higher average than the other two. In the minor leagues, Myers had a career .300 batting average and has only had one full season in the minors when he did not hit .300 or better. This is one of the main reasons that Myers is a bigger prospect than Reynolds or Dunn ever were.
Myers has the ability to hit for average and power while at the same time walking at an above average level. The strikeouts will most likely always be there for Myers, but just like with Reynolds and Dunn, there are ways to make people forget about them.
The hope for the Rays is that Myers is able to do what Reynolds and Dunn were able to with the home runs and walks, but also have a batting average that is somewhere around .280. While it is easy to get carried away in projections, one can see how Myers could develop into a Mark Reynolds or Adam Dunn, but with a batting average possibly 50 points higher, giving him Major League All-Star potential.
By: Justin Haffermehl