Wil is free of Kansas City and we have a real rotation so stop cutting him down. (Photo Credit: H. Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports via USA TODAY Sports)

More Trade Fallout: Stop Bashing Wil Myers

Blockbuster or blockheaded? Whether you are for or against Dayton Moore’s mega trade with the Rays, hopefully we’ve all reached the point of acceptance. It’s time to move on and look forward but a strange thing has happened (at least I find it strange).

Those who view the six player deal – that sent Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi to Tampa and brought back Wade Davis and James Shields – as a mistake, or at least view it in a negative light, settled down after a few days. They recognize (and I’m one of those) that no matter how much we protest, the bell can’t be unrung.

On the other hand, a good number of fans and writers that support the trade are still hard at work trying to justify the move. To do it they’ve resorted to cutting down the prospects the Royals sent to the Rays as “not that good” and have latched on to irrelevant red herring arguments.

All of it needs to stop.

If you support the trade, you got what you wanted. There is no need to continue to justify your position and based on the reaction from the “casual” fan you’re in the majority anyway. A huge – and I mean massive – cross section of the Royals fanbase is just happy Dayton Moore did something notable in an attempt to upgrade the rotation – and I think it is impossible to argue the point that he was successful in that regard.

For some reason, Wil Myers has become the girl that dumped us and some Royals fans seems to be on a crusade to cut him down to make themselves feel better about the trade. It’s not right, it’s not fair and it’s flat out misguided. A wise man once said that if you cut down your opponent after a victory, you’re only minimizing your achievement.

Argument #1: Myers is not Mike Trout or Bryce Harper

These kind of comparisons always crack me up.

It’s not untrue but it’s absurd to throw things like this around. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are two of the best prospects to come through the minors in the last 30 years and there is an argument to be made that they are, in fact, the two best. Harper in particular is the definition of phenom, and he’s been in the baseball spotlight since his early teens. Amazingly he’s lived up to the extreme hype along the way. Trout is a different but equally – or perhaps more – exciting player that turned in a 10+ WAR season as a 20-year old. Oh and he turned in the fifth 30+ HR/45+ SB in the history of Major League Baseball joining Eric Davis, Alex Rodriguez, Barry and Bobby Bonds.

If we were to assign value to all prospects and put Trout and Harper at the top of the scale as 100s, is it really necessary to knock Myers if he’s “merely” a 95 (or whatever you want to give him for a score)?

If the absurdity of this argument still doesn’t resonate with you we can play it the other way as well. We could, for example, say that the trade was a tragedy because James Shields and Wade Davis are not Pedro Martinez and Greg Maddux circa 2000 and 1994 respectively.

No question, Myers is not in the Trout/Harper class of prospect but let’s not diminish that Wil was named the Minor League Player of the Year but a number of sources. Let’s not ignore that all the position players that have been so honored by Baseball America have gone on to be at least average major leaguers. Let’s also not ignore that until Dayton Moore pulled the trigger on this deal, no MiLB POY had ever been traded before he made his major league debut.

Argument #2: Myers strikes out too much

This argument comes from people who are lazy and simply look at Myers’ stat line in 2012. They completely ignore that players get better as they develop and completely dismiss any scouting report that has ever been published on our now-departed top prospect. That or they’re grasping at straws.

Yes, he struck out 140 times in 134 games between Double and Triple-A last season. That works out to a 23.7 K% between the two levels and that is a fairly elevated percentage. However, it’s not an absurd K% and we can’t dismiss that he dropped it to 22.3% once he reached Omaha. Not a huge decrease to be sure but it did show an improvement from a 21-year old who was playing at the level for the first time in his career.

2012, however, is just one of four minor league seasons on his current resume.

  • 2009 – Idaho Falls/Burlington (Rk): 18.8 K%
  • 2010 – Burlington (A)/Wilmington (A+): 17.4%
  • 2011 – Northwest Arkansas (AA): 20.9%

Even if we presume that he will be unable to reduce his K% in the coming years as he gains experience (which is also absurd but I’ll play along), how often a player strikes out is just part of the equation. While Myers did strike out in 23.7% of his plate appearances last season, he walked in 10.3% of them showing excellent on-base skills in the process. For his career his BB% is well above average at 12.6%.

More important than the resume are his scouting reports. After all, we should not lose sight of the fact that a player’s time in the minors is far more about development and preparing for the majors than it is about putting up numbers. Baseball America’s latest profile about him puts a lot of the K’s in perspective as they were the result of a conscious effort by Myers to change his approach:

His decision to try to hit for more power in 2012 meant that Myers took more aggressive swings in two-strike counts, resulting in a career-high 140 strikeouts. After struggling with chasing balls that were too far in on his hands to hit fair in 2011, he made adjustments to lay off those pitches while showing he could pull fastballs on the inner half for extra bases.

Adjustments is the biggest word in the above quote, and it’s why he will be a phenomenal major league player. Wil Myers has shown the ability to make adjustments to his swing, stance and approach from year to year, month to month and game to game.

Argument #3: Myers can’t hit a curveball

I’m not sure when it happened but apparently one day everyone woke up and collectively decided that to be a successful major leaguer you have to be able to hit a breaking ball. Here’s a dirty little secret. Unless the pitcher makes a mistake or unless they’re specifically looking for the pitch, most hitters can’t hit a good curveball.

No, Wil doesn’t have the plate discipline of Barry Bonds at his peak, but give the kid a break. He has the bat speed, hand-eye coordination, approach and ability to make adjustments that all suggest he will be more than capable. I’ve mentioned it before but it bears repeating again and again. It’s not just that Myers has these traits in his skill set, it’s that they are clearly present at 21 and many of them are elite level.

It’s not a matter of having a hole in his swing, like Gordon did in his early days. Myers’ breaking ball “struggles” can be primarily tied to the hyper-aggressive approach he employed this past season as recognized by Baseball America and other scouting sources.

He was demolishing fastballs so Triple-A pitchers, many of whom throw quality junk relatively close to pitchers in the big leagues, were taking advantage of that approach. It was a calculated move by Myers to hit that way in 2012 and it paid off to the tune of 37 home runs and it bears repeating, he still hit 0.314 while selling out on his swings.

I’m sorry but while he may not be Mike Trout, I’ll take a player like Wil Myers in my lineup every day of the week.

Argument #4: Other Royals prospects have failed so surely Myers will

On this one I’ve seen a lot of comparisons to Alex Gordon, but the reality is that Alex was a very different type of player. For those of you who continue to cling to this belief that Gordon was worthless his first couple of seasons, I encourage you to go back and look at the stats. You’ll find a kid who wasn’t far off league average as a rookie and above average at the plate in his second season.

No he didn’t burst on to the scene, but he was clearly improving and trending upward after his first two seasons in Kansas City before injuries robbed a huge chunk of development time and momentum in 2009. From there it took a significant piece of his 2010 season, and some minor league time, to recapture things.

Let’s also not sweep under the rug the amount of pressure that was on his shoulders. When Alex came up, he was cast as the savior of the franchise. Comparisons to and mentions of George Brett were thrown at him constantly. There was a ton of external pressure on him to be the next great thing and as a kid who grew up following the team he certainly put a lot of pressure on himself to live up to things.

In all the years I’ve passionately followed baseball, there are very few cases I can recall where a player was so clearly affected by what was expected of him. It wore him down on a daily basis and it wasn’t hard to see.

If the trade hadn’t been made and Myers was on the Royals Opening Day roster his circumstances would have been entirely different. The team already has Gordon and Butler as cornerstones and leaders in place. Hosmer, Moustakas, Perez, and Alcides are also in place with tons of potential as well. Wil Myers would have walked into a situation where there was no need for undue pressure. The team is light years ahead of the Royals team that Gordon broke in with and Myers would have had every opportunity to hit down in the order and just be one of the guys from the start instead of being viewed as a franchise savior.

On this argument, it also needs to be pointed out that not all Royals prospects fail.

I know it can feel that way given what we’ve been subjected to in the handful of decades but some have succeeded from day one. Billy Butler, for example, has been an above average hitter basically from day one though even Royals fans seemed to miss that along the way. In his first full season as a 22-year old, Carlos Beltran hit 0.293 with 22 HR and 27 SB and in the 13 years that followed his OPS+ has been over 120 only once dipping below 100.

Argument #5: Myers numbers were inflated by the PCL and Werner Park

Environment and park factors are factors to consider when looking at a minor leaguer’s production but only when comparing them to a player’s projections and scouting profile. This is where this argument loses stock for me. Myers profiles as a well above average major league hitter with outstanding power potential. He was hitting bombs at Kauffman Stadium shortly after he was drafted and that was before his professional career was even truly underway.

Between the Texas and Pacific Coast Leagues he hit 37 home runs and finished 2012 with an 0.987 OPS. The quantity of homers did jump but that had far more to do with changes in his stance and swinging more aggressively than it did with where he was playing. Putting the jump in HR aside, his OPS from last season isn’t far off from his career mark of 0.917 and that includes the 0.745 OPS he turned in back in 2011 when he was dealing with various injuries. In terms of OPS the other two seasons on his resume match closely what he did last year and suggest that it was not an aberration aided by park effects.

And again all the stats have to be put into context and compared to his scouting report. When you do that, the stats match up with the expectations and projections.

Argument #6: Detroit was interested in Shields so the Royals had to move

There are two aspects to this but now that Detroit has re-signed Anibal Sanchez, this one looks flat out stupid, doesn’t it?

Whether or not the Tigers landed Shields was really immaterial to them. Shields is no doubt a valuable commodity to have in your rotation, but unlike the Royals, Detroit had the financial resources to sign someone else if Big Game James landed with another team. As it turned out Detroit was maybe sweating the Royals getting him from the Rays for all of 24 hours (and I don’t believe they ever were all that concerned). Kansas City made their move on December 9th and Detroit quickly moved on by signing Sanchez to a 5-year, $80 million contract just five days later.

Personally I believe that Sanchez was Detroit’s plan “A” all along and any interest they had in Shields may have been simply to drive up the price on the Royals. For the Tigers, the reality is they didn’t really have the prospect pieces to compete with the Royals or Rangers in a trade package. There’s also a good argument to be made that Dombrowski and company are happy that Shields is in Kansas City because that means he didn’t wind up with another AL contender that Detroit would have to face in the playoffs. Make no mistake, the Tigers remain the odds on favorite to win the AL Central and given the makeup of the West and East, the wildcard is not in play for Kansas City.

Beyond all of that, if Dayton Moore came off his stance on the value of Myers relative to Shields and made a rash decision based on what another team or teams were discussing, he should be fired immediately. That’s simply not how you build a successful franchise.

Closing Thoughts:

I saw Wil Myers live and in person at the Futures Game and I also took the wife and kids up to Omaha for a weekend to watch the Storm Chasers. If you have ever seen the guy play in person relative to his peers on the field you readily recognize that he looks different than other minor leaguers. The ball comes off his bat with more authority, his bat whips through the zone noticeably faster than other hitters and it’s clear he has a plan when he steps into the batter’s box.

For me, the stats, the reports and my own eyes all tell me that Wil Myers will be a star, if not a superstar, and that he will likely reach that level sooner rather than later. He’s now part of the Tampa Bay Rays and I’ve come to terms with that. James Shields and Wade Davis are part of the Royals and the deal is done. I’ve been consistent with my stance that I would not have made the trade if given the opportunity to do so and I do believe the Royals are going to regret this move in terms of player performance and value perhaps as early as 2014.

That said, if you are a fan of the trade and are happy the Royals made a move to at least dip their toe in the competitive waters, then be happy. Just don’t defend your approval of the deal by bashing Wil Myers.

Tags: Kansas City Royals Wil Myers

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