Wil Myers Moving to Outfield

It’s not a huge surprise, but, like the Jeff Francoeur signing this winter, it’s nice to have it out of the way.  We can move on.  There’s no more speculation.

Wil Myers, consistently considered a top catching prospect, is moving to the outfield.

This revelation came from a Q&A session with General Manager Dayton Moore at this weekend’s FanFest.

In discussing Myers, Moore said that the 20 year old (barely) “liked catching, but didn’t love it, and you have to love it.”

Myers had caught at every level with the Royals, ending last season with Wilmington.  He has a great arm, but there were aspects of game-calling and pitcher managing that weren’t developing quickly.  He threw out 42% of baserunners trying to steal in 2009, but that was in only 11 games.  In a full season among two levels, Myers only threw out 32% of runners, only 26% at High A Wilmington.  He also had 20 passed balls in 75 games.

Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook from 2010 compares Myers to Dale Murphy and Jayson Werth – two tall catchers that moved to the outfield.

I have two conflicting thoughts on the move.  First, it’s a good idea because it allows Myers to focus almost entirely on hitting.  His bat is already reaching elite levels (he has a career .962 OPS) and he has the plate discipline to punish pitchers when he works a hitter’s count.  Even at 20 years old and with a stint in cavernous Frawley Stadium in Wilmington, he has 19 homers in 637 plate appearances.

As a prospect, he has more value as a catcher.  With that bat and even average defensive skills, he’d be an upgrade over nearly every other catcher in the big leagues (down the line) who weren’t named Joe Mauer or Brian McCann.  Catcher is a position where average offensive skills aren’t just tolerated, but highly valuable.  An average defensive catcher who can hit at Myers’s level is extremely valuable since very few teams will have that kind of offensive production from that position (and allows for a strong producer in the other positions, too).

Catching, however, can be physically taxing, and can increase the likelihood of injuries – broken fingers, back issues, general fatigue from the demands of the position – and so catchers traditionally play in less games than other position players.  In that case, a move to the outfield probably adds 100 plate appearances to a full season of Myers.

The Royals have worked hard to reinvent their farm system.  A few years ago, they had no catching prospects to speak of.  Now, they’re able to move a player like Myers off the position because they have depth and talent.  Manuel Pina has a reputation as a solid defender and in 2010 he hit .252/.310/.393/.713.  It’s not superb, but it’s passable, especially given his other skills.

They also have Salvador Perez in line for a look behind the plate in the coming years.  Perez is only 20 years old himself and is coming off a .290/.322/.411/.733 season for Wilmington.  Kevin Goldstein has him ranked as a top 25 prospect and potential breakout candidate.  With Luke May and Brayan Pena currently in Kansas City, the Royals can choose either one of them for 2012 and have Pina work into a 50-70 games while Perez continues to develop.

Meanwhile, Myers moving to the outfield should help him advance rapidly through the system.  He could start the year in Wilmington for a couple of weeks and play the rest of the season with Northwest Arkansas before his 21st birthday.  It probably moves him a year closer to the big leagues and gives the Royals a true outfield prospect where they really didn’t have a clear favorite.  (Brett Eibner could become that kind of A-B level prospect as soon as next offseason, though.)

Myers has been listed as a top three prospect in the Royals system even before his .966 OPS run at Wilmington.  He was already the #1 prospect in Kings of Kauffman’s Prospect Rankings for 2010 and next month, when our new rankings for 2011 begin, he’s pretty likely to retain that spot (spoiler alert).

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Tags: AL Central Baseball Kansas City Royals KC Manuel Pina MLB Royals Salvador Perez Wil Myers

  • Eric

    Could Myers have been another Piazza, or would his defense be much worse?

    • http://kingsofkauffman.com Michael Engel

      Well…that’s interesting.

      I think Piazza’s bat justified keeping him behind the plate because he was so wildly productive, especially relative to other catchers.

      I just did a crude, quick comparison of Piazza vs Myers and Miguel Olivo (considered a poor defensive catcher):

      Games per WP allowed (not all their fault but they can prevent them…to an extent)

      Piazza: 4.58
      Olivo: 3.30

      Games per passed ball

      Piazza: 15.98
      Olivo: 10.25
      Myers: 3.307 (ewwww)

      CS% career

      Piazza: 23%
      Olivo: 35%
      Myers: 33%

      If it counts, Piazza was a -8.3 dWAR player (according to Baseball Reference) for his career. Olivo is 0.2 dWAR for his career.

      Myers’s numbers are based on 86 professional games, so it’s a small sample size, and it’s also his first shot at playing catcher, so there’s a steep learning curve under those circumstances. I think this says a lot about the Royals confidence in Sal Perez as a potential everyday option in the future – he carries a strong defensive reputation and also could develop a decent bat himself in the next couple years.

      That being said, Myers’s bat probably would be enough to justify him as a catcher a la Piazza.

  • Pingback: Wil Myers’s Catching Comps « Kings of Kauffman | A Kansas City Royals Blog

  • http://kingsofkauffman.com Michael Engel

    Went a little further with other comps at the link below, too…

  • Pingback: Around The League: Vernon Wells, Delino Deshields, Jr., Wil Myers, and Mike Trout | The Golden Sombrero