Although he is only 25, Padres first baseman Wil Myers has been through an awful lot in his career. He's been a former top prospect, a Rookie of the Year, involved in two blockbuster trades, injured, and considered a disappointment. That's a lot crammed into a relatively short period of time.
This season, Myers is finally starting to live up to his potential and become the star so many expected when Baseball America ranked him the fourth best prospect in baseball prior to the 2013 season. That same year Myers would go on to hit 13 home runs in 88 games with the Rays en route to being named the AL Rookie of the Year.
So far this season Myers is hitting .292/.336/.535 with 16 doubles, 16 home runs, and nine stolen bases in 69 games with San Diego. Those 16 homers are already a career-high, eclipsing the 13 he hit in 2013. When you adjust his performance for context (ballpark, etc.), Myers has been 36 percent better than league-average offensively. He now does things like this on the regular:
An opposite field home run on a 94 mph fastball from a guy like Max Scherzer? At spacious Petco Park? Not many players in the league can do that, folks.
Let's take a second to look at where Myers ranks in various categories among the 22 first baseman who have enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title this season:
Batting Average: .292 (4th)
On-Base Percentage: .336 (14th)
Slugging Percentage: .535 (4th)
OPS: .871 (6th)
OPS+: 135 (5th)
Doubles: 16 (2nd)
Home Runs: 16 (3rd)
Stolen Bases: 9 (1st)
WAR: 2.3 (3rd)
Myers has always been a bit of a free-swinger, so he doesn't draw many walks and won't post a sky-high on-base percentage. That's his only major flaw though. He's hitting for average, hitting for power, stealing bases, the works. The total package has made Myers one of the most productive first baseman in MLB.
Why has Myers broken out this season? Well, beyond natural talent, there are two big reasons, I think. And those two reasons lead to a big (and obvious) question.
Reason 1: He's healthy
This is the important one. Ongoing wrist problems, including a right wrist fracture and left wrist tendinitis, limited Myers to only 147 of 324 possible games from 2014-15. Nothing will hurt a player's production at the plate quite like hand or wrist injuries. If you can't hold the bat properly, you're not going to be able to hit properly. It's pretty simple.
Thanks largely to those wrist problems, Myers hit only .235/.311/.364 (92 OPS+) in those 147 games from 2014-15. Injured wrists, even if there's no fracture or torn tendons or anything like that, are so difficult to overcome. They're known to sap power even after the player is healed and given the okay to return. Myers is healthy now, and with two functioning wrists, he's become a beast at the plate.
Reason 2: He finally has set position
Since being a third round pick in 2009, Myers has moved from catcher to the outfield to third base to the outfield again, and now he's at first base. He's played most of his career in right field, so it should be no surprise he had his Rookie of the Year season playing that position. Myers was in a familiar position day after day.
The Padres stuck Myers in center field in 2015, a position he wasn't suited to play defensively, but it was the only way to get him in the lineup with Matt Kemp and Justin Upton occupying the corner outfield spots. The team moved Myers to first base late in the season and that is now his new full-time position. Outside of one spot start in left earlier this year, he's been San Diego's regular first baseman.
I know we can fall into the trap of thinking changing positions can be easy, especially when you're talking about shifting outfield spots, but players aren't robots. They have different skill sets and are more comfortable in certain positions. There's a reason guys like Ben Zobrist, who can play all over the field flawlessly, are so rare. It's hard to do. Myers has finally been able to settle in at a position that suits him well.
The Big Question: Should the Padres trade him?
It's only natural that his question would come up. The Padres are in a rebuild after last year's attempt at quick fix contention failed, and given his combination of age and production, Myers should be able to fetch a nice haul of young players. They aren't actively shopping him, however.
Will the Padres listen to offers for Myers? Of course. Every team listens to offers for every player. The GM wouldn't be doing his job if he didn't. Myers is the kind of player San Diego can build around going forward. Rebuilding teams trade veterans for prospects hoping those prospects will someday develop into a player like the one Myers is today.
Should the Padres trade Myers? Well, it depends on the offers more than anything. Some team could always blow you away with an offer. I'm inclined to say the Padres should not only keep him, but look to sign him to a long-term contract extension. Myers will be arbitration-eligible after the season and eligible for free agency after 2019. They have him for a while, but why not try to keep him even longer?
Constant position changes and especially injuries have hampered Myers the last few years. Now that he's healthy and has a set position, he's is finally starting to blossom into the star he projected to be when he was a highly touted prospect years ago. The talent was always there. Unlocking it was the hard part.