Entering the 2013 season, when he would make his Major League debut for the Rays, Wil Myers was ranked by MLB.com as the fourth-best prospect in all of baseball. The 22-year-old’s combination of power and speed portended stardom to come.
But after posting an .831 OPS with 13 home runs in 88 games for Tampa Bay that season, Myers was beset by injuries to both wrists that limited him to a combined 147 games from 2014-15.
Last season, Myers was finally able to turn in his first full season, playing 157 games with a 113 OPS+ for the Padres. He hit 28 homers and stole 28 bases. But his red-hot start to 2017 begs the question: Is this finally Myers’ breakout season? And is Myers a dark horse National League Most Valuable Player Award candidate?
It’s early, of course, but we’ve seen what a healthy Myers is capable of, and his recent surge makes the MVP notion a legitimate one. Since homering off Johnny Cueto on Sunday at Petco Park (Cueto surrendered just 0.6 home runs per nine innings last season), Myers is 7-for-12, with two doubles, two triples and another home run.
On Monday night at Coors Field, Myers hit for the second cycle in Padres history. He singled, doubled and tripled over his next five at-bats against the Rockies, and then had the bat taken out of his hands the next two trips to the plate, being walked and hit by a pitch. In all, Colorado retired Myers just four times in 13 plate appearances.
Two out of every three balls Myers has put in play so far this season (21 out of 32) have left the bat at an exit velocity of 90 mph or greater, according to Statcast™. On the night he completed the cycle, three of the four balls he put in play had an exit velocity greater than 100 mph (the homer was 97.8 mph).
Clearly, Myers is seeing the ball well, and going 7-for-10 in a series in Colorado isn’t all that surprising considering Myers has hit extremely well at Coors Field throughout his career (.373 with six homers in 75 at-bats). But Myers is a 30-30 threat who is now playing first base full-time, a position at which he’s likely to perform better defensively than he did in right field, particularly at Petco Park. In his first season playing first base full-time, Myers led all NL first basemen with an 8.8 ultimate zone rating per 150 games.
Petco Park is a cavernous venue for hitters. But among all active players who have had at least 200 plate appearances there, Myers is second only to Justin Upton with an .877 OPS in 498 plate appearances. Myers is also second to Upton among active players with a homer every 20 at-bats at Petco.
So even without the aid of advanced metrics that adjust for park factors among some MVP voters, Myers’ home ballpark is less of a disadvantage than it might be for others hitting in San Diego.
Myers doesn’t have the cachet of Bryce Harper or Kris Bryant, the past two NL MVP Award winners. He also plays in a smaller market than those two, which will make it even tougher for him to garner serious consideration should he have a great year.
But what if this is Myers’ year? After all, perhaps now more than ever, players on teams with losing records (which the Padres are projected to have again this season) are given more consideration — Mike Trout won his second American League MVP Award last season despite playing for the 74-88 Angels, becoming just the second player to do so (Andre Dawson won the NL MVP Award in 1987 for the 76-85 Cubs).
Myers will face stiff competition, but consider him a dark horse NL MVP Award candidate in 2017. For a Padres club that is in the throes of rebuilding, that would be quite a bright spot in an otherwise difficult season ahead.
It would also signal the arrival of the Wil Myers we’ve all been waiting to see.
“I think he’s starting to come into his own,” said Rockies manager Bud Black, who managed Myers in 2015 for San Diego. “I think now he’s finally settled into a place in his career where he feels comfortable as a Major League player and a Major League hitter. … He’s a talented young player. I think that a lot of people in this game saw that early on. And he’s realizing that potential.”
By Manny Randhawa