This is going to sound crazy. It kind of sounds crazy to me. But I’m going to make the case for why Wil Myers should not be brought up.
Let me start by stating that I believe it’s time to bring Wil Myers up. I think the Royals are still close enough in the race, only six back, to compete, and I think Myers is probably as ready as he’s going to be and a better option than Jarrod Dyson in center. His development can only continue at the major league level … more on that later.
But there are concerns I have that I wonder if others are noticing, and the best way for me to express those concerns is to imagine a reasonable argument for leaving him in AAA for the time being. This argument is based on the assertion that he will struggle when he gets to the major league level for the reasons I’m about to present. So, here it goes.
I’ve watched a number of Myers’ games this year via MiLB.tv. During these games, there were at bats where Myers’ looked incredible—I’m talking perennial All-Star good. But there were also at-bats where the trademark patience wasn’t there. He was chasing pitches from both AA and AAA pitchers. I saw him strike out on three pitches, I think, in a game with the Storm Chasers, and it looked like he was hell bent on swinging and hitting the ball out of the park.
To put it bluntly, Myers’ has become less patient. Some probably see this as a good thing. There were rumblings that maybe he was too patient and letting hitter’s pitches go by. In the last three seasons, his strikeout percentage went from roughly 17.4 percent in 2010, to 20.9 percent in 2011, to 24.1 percent in 2012 (2010 and 2012 split between two levels). So, Myers is striking out quite a bit more than when he built his reputation as a patient hitter.
Perhaps even more telling is the drop in walk numbers. Frankly, I can live with strikeouts if a guy gets on base a lot. Alex Gordon strikes out a lot, but I don’t really care because he walks a lot. Adam Dunn is the same way, as are many hitters in today’s game. Myers was thought to be the same type of patient walk-taker without the high strikeout numbers when he was walking at 15.9 percent clip in 2010. But that number dropped to 12.5 percent in 2011 and 10.2 percent so far in 2012. Surprisingly, his walk rate is lowest at AAA, 9.7 percent in 113 at bats, despite the monster year he’s having. One might think that he’d be pitched around more, though admittedly, Omaha’s lineup is very good protection for him.
These numbers clearly indicate a change in approach. He’s being more aggressive. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not good either. This year, that aggression has paid off. He hit .351/.421/.739 at AA, and he’s currently hitting .327/.398/.693 at AAA. But this year everything he puts in play is falling for a hit. His BABIP at Northwest Arkansas was .425. At Omaha, it’s .343. Last season, when he struggled mightily at Northwest Arkansas, his BABIP was a more reasonable .312, his walk rate was 12.5 percent and his strikeout rate was 20.9 percent. Striking out more and walking less was a problem last season, and many analysts noted it. This season, he’s striking out even more and walking even less, but apparently it’s not a problem anymore? It doesn’t seem like one because the average and countables (homeruns, RBIs) are there, because seemingly every pitch he touches with a bat leaves the ballpark—just like every doughnut I touch with a finger leaves this world.
Of course, I’m a champion of the belief that BABIP isn’t based on “luck” (Miguel Cabrera has a career .346 BABIP. Is that 10 seasons worth of “good luck”?). Myers’ BABIP is high, partially, because he’s hitting the ball insanely hard and when hitters do that their BABIP goes up. But well struck balls won’t come so easily in the majors. Using my eyes, I’ve seen him take some tough pitches, location-wise, and drive them out of the park this season. That won’t happen so much at the big league level when those pitches are moving more with more velocity. Frankly, he’s not going to be able to hit any pitch thrown once he’s called up. He’ll need to drive the three good pitches he gets to hit in an entire game. In order to pick those pitches out, he needs his discriminatory eye back.
So, I’ve made the argument to show you what concerns me about calling him up. Now, let me tell you why he should be called up (It’s a world of gray people don’t expect hardline certainty). I think Myers has hit the point where even AAA baseball can’t help him develop. I think he could continue striking out too much, walking too little, and crushing the ball at AAA for as long as he wants. Sometimes in order to develop, players need to be shown through failure that what they’re doing can’t keep working. Players find failure and make adjustments (see the transformation of Alex Gordon). He needs to move up, fail a little at some point and adjust. Or maybe he already knows that he can dominate AAA pitching and will adjust when called up. I doubt that, but who knows. Either way, it’s about time to call him up
Allow me to end by stating that I hope my concerns mean absolutely nothing. I hope Myers comes up, destroys major league pitching, and continues the new era of hope and prosperity for Royals baseball. I hope minstrels write songs of him and Wilt Chamberlin blushes at the thought of his virility. But lets not make it a given just yet. Let’s not ignore his issues the way we ignored Eric Hosmer’s, crowned him a deity, and were shocked to learn he still had adjustments to make.