Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How patient will Rays be on Wil Myers?

The recent acquisition of Shelley Duncan gives the Rays a bit more reliability in their left-field platoon paired with Sam Fuld. Duncan is a known quantity with a career .755 OPS against left-handed starters. Duncan can also provide the same flexibility with lefty-swinging James Loney at first base. Duncan blunts a bit of the question mark of if Brandon Guyer will ever hit major league pitching. But while Fuld provides excellent range in the outfield with somewhat questionable offensive capabilities, Duncan is more stodgy in the outfield. Will such a combination test the Rays and tempt them to see if Wil Myers can make the jump?

Myers, of course, is the highly-rated prospect gained from the Royals in the James Shields trade. While Royals fans like the idea of improving the rotation, there were collective groans about losing Myers, the most fascinating hitter in the Royals' organization. And rightly so.

Myers is only 22 years old but after Trout and Harper last year, the dynamic has changed for how young you can hope prospects to perform once they hit the majors. Myers flew through the lower minors since he was drafted in 2009. He hit a bit of a lull upon hitting Double-A in 2011 but blew it up in 2012 and then did very well in Triple-A as well. Baseball America touts his plate discipline skills and ability to hit for average. They rate him as the Rays' Number 3 prospect. Baseball Prospectus rates him first in the Rays' organization.

The Rays have never seriously played the clock on their young players like other teams. David Price, Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, Evan Longoria and Desmond Jennings are recent examples of really young players that the Rays have turned to if it gives them a better chance to compete. With that track record, it seems logical that Myers will not be artificially delayed because of service time issues.

If the Rays bring Wil Myers to Spring Training and he blows up the joint, perhaps the temptation will be strong to go with talent over proven major league players that are less talented. There is no doubt that the Rays would have done their homework when scouting him. There would be less of a need to "see what he can do" in the minors first.

Myers has struck out at a higher rate once he reached the higher minors and those rates (over 20%) are a bit of a concern. But it is hard to ignore that in 99 games at the Triple-A level, Myers put up a .932 OPS.

Yes, Myers will test the Rays and tempt them if he has a good spring. But the odds have to be taken that he will start the year in the minors. If the Rays struggle offensively out of the gate, that temptation will prove too strong and Myers will get the call. Either scenario is lip-smacking in the anticipation department.

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