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.
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.