Thin AL rookie class, but Wil Myers' upside is real
Unlike a number of past Rookies of the Year, Wil Myers of the Rays actually has star potential.
As my colleague Mike Axisa has rightly pointed out, this year's crop of American League rookies was far inferior to that of the National League. There's no disputing that point, but let's take a moment to acknowledge the excellent long-term of potential of Rays outfielder Wil Myers, who took home the AL hardware on Monday.
To be sure, future potential isn't part of the Rookie of the Year calculus, as past winners like, oh, Chris Coghlan, Angel Berroa, Eric Hinske, Jason Jennings and so many others prove, at least in retrospect. In Myers's case, though, his new plaque only hints at his performance ceiling. That's been apparent from very early in his career.
Myers, of course, was the key prospect in the December 2012 trade that sent veteran right-hander James Shields from the Rays to the Royals. The Royals originally drafted him in 2009 in the third round, but even that undersells his stock as an amateur. As Baseball America noted at the time, Myers, then projected as a catcher, was considered to have first-round skills and wasn't expected to stick around past the supplemental round. However, "signability" concerns (Myers was a University of South Carolina commit) may have caused him to slip. Even so, the Royals paid him a signing bonus of $2 million, which was well above slot and indicated they viewed him as something more than a "mere" third-rounder.
Myers resumed hitting as a pro and never really stopped. As an 18-year-old, he batted .369/.427/.679 across two rookie-ball levels. The following year he put up a .934 OPS in Low- and High-A despite playing against a significantly older peer group. Duly impressed, the Royals moved him from behind the plate and to the outfield in order to hasten his expected arrival in Kansas City.
In 2011, Myers's numbers dropped somewhat as he faced high-minors competition for the first time as a 20-year-old and dealt with a deep cut on his knee that became infected. In 2012,, though, Myers rebounded in a big way tallied a jaw-dropping 37 home runs across Double- and Triple-A. Coming into the 2013 season, Myers was ranked as the fourth-best prospect in baseball by both Baseball America and MLB.com. Then, of course, came that widely questioned trade (or widely hailed, from the Rays' standpoint) that sent Myers out of the Royals organization.
At Triple-A Durham, Myers overcame a somewhat slow start -- slow by his standards, anyway -- to bat .286/.356/.520 in the pitcher-friendly International League. The Rays kept him on the farm too long in order to manipulate his service-time clock, but once they did call him up he hit. Specifically, he batted .293/.354/.478 en route to, of course, winning AL Rookie of the Year laurels. Prorate those numbers to a full season, and Myers would've rung up 24 homers and 42 doubles as a 22-year-old.
Simply put, the scouting profile and performance record from rookie ball to the highest level suggest the best is yet to come for Myers. As noted, that's not always the case for rookies honored by the BBWAA. As for Myers, though, don't be surprised if he's one day in the mix for an even more coveted award: the MVP.