By Nick Recchia
Photo Credit: (K.C. Alfred/K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune
When Wil Myers signed his six-year $83 million contract extension in the winter after his first career All Star season in 2016, he instantly became the face of the franchise, whether he liked it or not. It was a turning point in his young career that so far has not yielded the fruits of the investment the Padres made that day. Myers for his part, has never been the charismatic face in front of the camera nor the personality that clings to the camera and shines brightest when the lights are its hottest, even as much as management and the fanbase have wanted him to be. The old adage of hitting a square peg into a round hole metaphor applies here somewhere.
When first acquired in a three team deal in the winter of 2014, Myers was a young player who had just turned 24, days before acquired and was coming off a AL Rookie of the Year campaign two years earlier. A once heralded catcher in the Royals system who was traded to the Rays in the James Shields/Wade Davis deal as the centerpiece for the two veterans, was quickly converted to the outfield where the bat would reach the majors sooner without learning the labored nuances of the catching position. And at the age of 22, he was in the majors with Tampa and putting up a slash line of .293/.354/.478 with 36 extra base hits across 335 at bats. These cumulative numbers led to his aforementioned winning of the Rookie of the Year award in 2013.
An injury plagued season that carried over from the end of 2013 into 2014, led to a souring of sorts on the Rays part and led to his apparent availability that Winter. AJ Preller, fresh to the Padres organization that previous summer was looking for a core piece to acquire and jumpstart the team into competitiveness. What better player to do that than a 24 year old former top prospect and Rookie of the Year with multiple years of team control left? The Padres paid quite the premium with the inclusion of young starters Burch Smith and Joe Ross, and the previous summer’s June Amateur Draft first rounder Trea Turner who at the time was the PTBNL.
All of the other veterans acquired that same winter from Matt Kemp, to Justin Upton, to Craig Kimbrel, were all considered pieces to help make a run to improvement but not a long term cog like Myers was. He was looked at by ownership and the front office as the guy they were going to hang their hat on and ride til the wheels fell off. With the failure of the 2015-16 groups in the rearview mirror by the winter of 2017, the Padres made the investment that Myers would be the piece that remained and was part of the next winning group of Padres which leads us to now.
After the last two frustrating seasons seeing Wil Myers go through lapses of concentration on and off the field, Padres fans and ownership seem to have reached boiling temperature. His OPS each of the last two years are .763 and .736 respectively. His career OPS is .763 over 2,798 at bats. That is a long enough trend to show who a pretty good idea of the player he is even if there is more potential for development left. He is an average to slightly above average major league player who has a career 107 OPS+ which means he is 7% better than his average contemporary. He is being compensated under the pretense of much higher expectations but the reality is he is a good but great player like the pressure that has been thrust upon him his entire career. He has not lived up to those expectations so far but this year could have the ingredients that change the recipe. Whanager Jayce Tingler and his veteran group of coaches, the performance day to day will be governed and managed closely. The players in the pie including Tommy Pham and others expect nothing less than 110% everytime and will have a clubhouse enforcer in Pham not seen since the days of Ken Caminiti in the late 90’s clubs. Myers, the rumor mill darling the last year plus, will likely see himself settle into the right field role and a spot in the lineup no higher than sixth. This reduction in role could reduce stress and expectations and allow Myers to relax into a role that befits him. The role of a good but not great player.
Expect that he will put up a mid 700 OPS, but hold out hope that the right ingredients in this 2020 version of “White Queso” is all that was needed to get the recipe right.
Javy Guerra Comes Out Firing
By Nick Recchia
RHP - JAVY GUERRA
PHOTO CREDIT: SAN DIEGO PADRES
The Javy Guerra dilemma will soon be the talk of the Peoria Sportsplex, putting the team in an envious position with a nice problem to have. The former Boston Red Sox farm hand who was acquired along with former Padres Manuel Margot, Carlos Asuaje, and Logan Allen for closer Craig Kimbrel in the 2015 Winter trade is now the last remaining piece from that trade. The unusual part is that he was acquired as a highly touted shortstop prospect who was coming off a .279/.329/.449 slash line with 41 extra base hits as a 19 year old in A ball. He was the #76 prospect in all of baseball at the time of the trade and instantly slotted in the #3 prospect in the entire Padres system. That is when the story started to change for Guerra.
Starting the following season in Lake Elsinore, Guerra would fail to eclipse anything higher than a .226 batting average in full time duty over the next three seasons. This repetitive inability to show growth in the bat stymied the young shortstop and started to bleed into his defense at shortstop where his glove was once a plus commodity. Coaches claimed to see a frustrated young man who was losing the passion for the game as so many do when inundated with failure so many times. Coming from such highly touted prospect stock previously, the Padres were hesitant to cut ties with Guerra even after a 19 plate appearance cup of coffee in September of 2018 that produced a dismal .125/.263/.125 line.
The following spring training, a new idea emerged from Padres camp which saw the plus armed shortstop, at risk of losing his 40 man roster spot on the mound. A position player conversion is never an easy thing and hardly constituted assured success with someone making the transition with no history of pitching at the age of 23. Most successful converted pitchers like Kenley Jansen of the Dodgers and Sean Doolittle of the Nationals either started the conversion younger or had a history of pitching in the amateur ranks. One former shortstop who began pitching full time at the age of 23 should be very promising in Trevor Hoffman. After the bat stalled for Hoffman, the Reds began the conversion to pitching at 23, eventually finding himself heading to the Padres in a trade for Gary Sheffield during the ominous fire sale era in 1993. Safe to say that was a success with Hoffman being inducted into the Hall of Fame as part of the class of 2018.
Now obviously that in no means is illuminating to what Guerra’s future holds nor does it portend to assume he is even going to make the opening day roster. But what can be asserted is that Guerra has a high octane arm with very little miles on it and a valuable spot on the 40 man roster this spring. He is also competing for a role in what might be the deepest bullpen in all of baseball. He is armed with a mid to high 90’s fastball that has teased triple digits and a slider with high 80’s velocity and good tilt. It’s been his adaptation and comfort in pitching that has stood out so far in such limited duty. He made his MLB pitching debut late last season in the same year as his conversion, a meteoric rise to say the least.
With a spot on the 40 man roster and no remaining options available, the team will be forced to either carry Guerra, trade him, or risk putting him through waivers which would surely see the team lose him for nothing. The Padres are looking forward to tough questions like these in the near future but only time will tell what baseball has in store for new flamethrower, Javy Guerra.
Longtime baseball enthusiast who tries to incorporate new age analytics into old school baseball strategy and how the two can coexist in winning harmony. Also a minor league aficionado who delves deep into the farm to share the love of the game from the lower rungs of the minor leagues and up. Always up for sports talk.