Down on the Farm: Where there's a Wil
It's May 30. Do you know where your can't-miss preseason prospect stash is?
He should have made it home by now. He was due here half past May. But as we approach June o'clock, Wil Myers remains stranded at Triple-A, without so much as a phone call from the parent club.
It's like it doesn't even care.
But of course, it does care. The Rays gave up James Shields , arguably the most influential player in franchise history, for Myers, recognizing that their lineup lacked the thump to compete in the beastly AL East. We already know Myers brings the thump. His 37 home runs between Double- and Triple-A last year ranked second among minor-leaguers, making him one of the more surprising players passed over for a promotion even then.
So ... what the heck?
In the absence of concrete estimates or thoughts of any kind from the Rays, we're left to our own devices, which consist mostly of historical precedent and good old fashioned guesswork.
"But isn't that how we got into this mess in the first place?" Yes, it is. But if you're one of the owners in 72 percent of leagues who've stashed Myers since Day 1, isn't that better than another column about how the latest starting pitcher call-up -- Michael Wacha , let's say -- is worth an add "just in case?" That's what I thought.
In these days of self-proclaimed baseball intellectuals and their ever-so-stimulating discussion boards, anytime a prospect takes longer than expected to reach the majors, the conversation turns to everyone's favorite collective bargaining clause -- and possibly the only one known by name.
|1.||Wil Myers , OF, Rays||72|
|2.||Zack Wheeler , SP, Mets||63|
|3.||Tony Cingrani , SP, Reds||53|
|4.||Josh Rutledge , SS, Rockies||50|
|5.||Oscar Taveras , OF, Cardinals||46|
|6.||Yasiel Puig , OF, Dodgers||41|
|7.||Jesus Montero , C, Mariners||36|
|8.||Billy Hamilton , SS, Reds||35|
|9.||Dustin Ackley , 2B, Mariners||34|
|10.||Christian Yelich , OF, Marlins||32|
Oh, Super Two! Super Two! Whoop-de-woo! It's Super Two!
Congratulations. You've mastered the vocabulary portion of Down on the Farm. Assume the desk at the head of the class and accept this gold star.
For as many times as that rule is cited, you'd think more people would understand how it works. Basically, the 22 percent of players called up this year who have accumulated the most service time by the end of 2015 get an extra year of arbitration. We won't know the magic date until three years from now. June 15 is a reasonable estimate, but frankly, teams might not be "safe" until July.
So, wait. You're saying we still have a month to go? Oh, for crying --
No, I'm just presenting one possibility. It's guesswork, remember? What makes my guesswork more authoritative than yours? Nothing, really. Guess you might as well stop reading.
Still with me? Of course you are. The thirst for a Myers timetable on a Web bereft of it is unquenchable. I can write anything here, and you'll just keep reading. That lion has a crooked eye. My hair grows all wavy-like. The moon is made of margarine.
Another possibility for Myers' delayed arrival: The Rays are more than satisfied with what they already have. It's a touching story made at least somewhat plausible by unexpected contributions from Kelly Johnson and James Loney . But in the long run, their lineup still has more holes than their Shields-less (and right now, David Price-less) rotation can overcome.
Not only is Loney (and to a certain extent, Johnson) sure to regress, but Luke Scott won't continue to reach base at a .380 clip. Plus, the Rays have enough versatility in their lineup that Myers could, in an indirect way, take over at shortstop, with Ben Zobrist moving over from second base to man that position and Johnson moving in from the outfield to man second base.
Want to know my theory for why Myers is still awaiting the call? He hasn't forced the issue. From the beginning of the season, the Rays determined not to start the arbitration clock or rearrange their starting lineup until he proved good and ready. Safe to say a .244 batting average with a strikeout every third at-bat over his first 41 games at Durham didn't do that.
Which brings me to why I've chosen now to write this column.
In case you haven't noticed, Myers has been looking unmistakably Myers-like over his last six games (check out this recent blast), hitting five homers and three doubles. He has also cut down on his strikeouts, with just five in his last nine games. Is it enough to win over the Rays once and for all? My guess, while I'm at it, is no. But another two weeks of this changes everything.
And even if you assume the Rays bow to Super Two, July 1 is only a couple weeks after that. In 2-4 weeks, Wayward Willy has every reason to come home.
So there you have it: a working timetable. In the absence of an official one, it'll have to do. About the only thing I can see preventing it is a sudden reversion to his early-season struggles, but if you had faith enough to roster Myers in the first place, trusting he'd make an impact as soon as he reached the big leagues, you should have faith in him capitalizing on this opportunity. And if that's the case, now would be the worst time to drop him for Alfonso Soriano , Lucas Duda , Leonys Martin or whatever else the waiver wire turns up (for the record, I rank Myers 50th among outfielders going forward).
You've already stuck it out this long. For the player once hyped as this year's Mike Trout , or at least Bryce Harper (looking more like Anthony Rizzo now), you might as well see it through to the end.
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