Wil Myers at third base. (Photo: Minda Haas)

What Are the Royals Doing With Wil Myers?

Earlier tonight Royals prospect Wil Myers hit his 35th homer in 2012, with 22 of those coming for Triple A Omaha.

Over the last few days, Myers as been playing at third base, rather than his typical center field. This is after moving him from right field to center, which only followed after moving him from catcher to the outfield.

The musical chairs act hasn’t affected his hitting, but it seemed like 2012 would be a year where the Royals could tolerate any passable defense in right field so long as Myers was hitting. He’s hit. There have been some rough patches, but his overall line is strong. He can take a walk. He hits for power. He’s struck out more this season but he’s still around a .300 batting average and the tradeoff is more power numbers.

Sure, versatility isn’t a bad thing and you never know when he may be called to play third base at some point in an emergency situation, but according to Robert Ford of 610 Sports, the Royals feel that third base is Myers’s strongest position.

This raises a few questions. First, if they felt third base is his best position, what led them to that conclusion? The handful of innings in June at the position? Pre-game fungo sessions? Why not start him at third base once he shed the catching gear with the option of the outfield ready if the experiment failed?

It smacks of moving a player around for the sake of moving a player around, to me.

Wil Myers was stuck in the minors to learn the outfield and get comfortable, with an eye towards moving into right field. He’s blocked by the Jeff Francoeur contract for the rest of this season and despite showing that he was worthy of a look at the big league level as early as June, it’s almost September and he’s probably not going to be called up to the majors this season.

I’ll guess that the Royals will keep him in Omaha to let him win the Pacific Coast League with his team. Then I’ll guess that they’ll suggest that he’s not ready at third and want him to get more work there and they have Mike Moustakas there too, so they can’t bring him up to start 2013. Most likely, that’s the game the service time clock, which isn’t an awful idea in theory, but it’s counter to every statement the Royals have made that they want to win now and have the best players up and want to bring young players up when they’ve shown they’re ready. They seem fully prepared to let Myers just stay there.

Eric Hosmer came up after a month of Triple A. Moustakas spent about a year there. Danny Duffy was up after two Omaha months. Did the philosophy change, or is the target moving around again? If they’re concerned about the struggles of Hosmer and Moustakas, well say that. Say “we brought some players up we thought were ready and they’ve done well but we may want to take another track this time.” Good enough for me. Don’t keep switching positions and sitting on veterans and tell me the .300 hitter who leads the minors in homers isn’t ready to hit at this level.

Myers at the plate. (Photo: Minda Haas)

Myers is ready. He could play a reasonable right field in the majors. Or, at least, he can be as good riight now as Francoeur has been. This year, Francoeur hasn’t shown good range and while his arm is still potent, it’s not as valuable as it was last season, according to FanGraphs. It might make it to that level by season’s end, but even with the arm, his range is so bad he still struggles to keep up. Also, his arm is only good for anything if he can get to the ball. Surely Myers could make the same plays Francoeur has and probably make plays he hasn’t.

Ford suggests that Myers could be an option to spell Moustakas at third on days against left-handed pitching. That could be an option and you’d want to have the player ready for that scenario, but why now? He’s never played third (and it shows, according to Lee Warren and Minda Haas), and now a month and a half in Triple A will be enough time to plug him in there, yet a year in right field (a less demanding defensive position on the defensive spectrum) isn’t enough time to try him while he’s mashing the ball?

I don’t get it.

Sure, there are roster logistics at play. Myers would have to be added to the 40 man roster, but with a week left before September, does Francisley Bueno need his spot? Is Adam Moore a priority? Are Jason Bourgeois and Ryan Verdugo and Tommy Hottovy vital to this organization? Chris Getz is right there, ready to be put on the 60 day disabled list, too. There are ways to make it work.

But maybe I’m looking for a conspiracy where none exists. Maybe I’m so conditioned by curious decision making by this organization that it’s jaded me to the point that it all starts to feel arbitrary. If so, I’ll accept that charge.

Moustakas is showing signs that he could be a supreme defensive third baseman and can also be a force at the plate for extended stretches. Myers isn’t going to replace him defensively.

I mean, if I’m overreacting, please tell me. At this point, the Royals have said that they felt they had enough pitching, then had to call on Ryan Verdugo, Vin Mazzaro, Nathan Adcock and others in Spot Start Roulette after injuries mowed down Duffy and Felipe Paulino. They’ve sent Alex Gordon and Billy Butler down after struggles in the not-so-distant past, but Eric Hosmer was left to swipe at the low and away pitch all summer. They made a point to see what Jarrod Dyson could do in center, but haven’t afforded the same opportunity to Johnny Giavotella while letting Yuniesky Betancourt play the majority of the time at second until his release.

Now, the new narrative may turn out to be “We want to see more of Wil at third and evaluate where that fits our ballclub.”

The best case for Myers is to play right field. Every day. I’ll concede the occasional start in center to give someone a rest (thought I don’t know that he’ll be a fit for the duties of center over long stretches). If he can play third base well enough to be thought of as someone who might spell Moustakas once every other week, okay, fine, but conduct that test in Kansas City. My fear is that it’ll be too easy for the Royals to resist wasting more time.

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Tags: Jeff Francoeur Kansas City Royals Mike Moustakas Wil Myers

  • Eric Akers

    From the Bob Dutton article, I got the feeling that he will not be up at all this year just because of the 40 man roster issues and the ability to protect other players. I can’t say that I disagree with the sentiment right now since we would still not be in the race if we won 20 straight games. It would be nice to get him some playing time, but these last games of the year are not going to make or break next year for him, and he should still be given the opportunity to play starting next year regardless of being on the roster or not.

    Don’t forget that it was a lot easier to add Moose and Hosmer to the roster when they were called up. This is a good problem to have.

    • Michael Engel

      That’s very true, Eric. There were easier ways to fit Hos and Moose then. It’s going to be an interested offseason because someone good will have to slip through who they can’t put on the 40 man.

  • jimfetterolf

    From what I hear, Myers issues are minor-league breaking-stuff and challenges of playing the cozy Werner Park. He’s not Hosmerizing the PCL, not even doing a Gio on it, so contract and roster considerations take on more weight.

    • Michael Engel

      Well here’s a question though. If Myers dialed down the power stroke and wanted to hit for average, I get the feeling he could be rolling at .340 with 22 homers. He’s swinging for the fences and it’s working. He’s always been known for good plate discipline and a good eye, but if he wants to homer…well he’s gonna homer. And Hosmer only had a month in Omaha, and dominant as it was, I don’t think his numbers would have stayed there over a full year.

      • Eric Akers

        What do you think would be better for the Royals, Myers hitting for better power or better average? And does changing his approach to hit home runs in AAA help or hurt his development?

        • Michael Engel

          I don’t think it hurts his development at this stage. Maybe if he were trying in A ball it would hurt more.

          Being a corner player (outfield OR third, even if sparingly) and with defense being his big question, he’s got to be productive at the plate. It reminds me of the Billy Butler question. He’s hitting for a lot more power this year, obviously, but at the expense of walking more often. His average hasn’t been impacted much at all. In that case, more power is a really good thing. I’m starting to think more power (if you still have at least good average) is better because look at guys like Adam Dunn or Carlos Pena who do nothing with their batting average but still produce runs with the longball. It’s an interesting question.

          Of course, ideally he’ll hit .320 and put 30 over the fence…

          But .270 and 25 feels more productive than .310 and 15.

          • jimfetterolf

            Good thoughts, but not sure AAA power will translate to Kauffman where homers turn into doubles or fly outs, which may be why the FO isn’t blinded by Myers’ power. I see Myers as more an Alex Gordon type hitter when he comes up next year after Super Two. 15-20 a year homer guy, lots of doubles, lots of Ks and BBs.

            In the case of Big Bill, he changed his swing and approach to clear more fences and he doesn’t walk as much because he doesn’t have Matt Treanor on deck. I watch a lot of games on Game Day and Bill isn’t walking a lot because pitchers are throwing him strikes. I see no signs that he’s turned into a wild swinger in the last year

    • Michael Engel

      Also, he tore up Arvest, and that’s not nearly as friendly to RHB as Werner, granted, a lower level…

  • mungakc

    Michael, you are all over the board in your musings on Wil Myers and how the Royals are handling him. I agree with Jim and Eric’s comments and believe it’s much simpler than you might make. There are several more players than the couple that you mention who need to be considered for the 40 man roster after the season is complete. We all regret the 2 year contract that French received, especially with the unexpected breakout of Myers this year. The Royals are not going to just eat the $6.75 mill for next year, nor do they do themselves any benefit by sitting him the next 5 weeks and playing Myers. Most likely, they will let Myers play the final Omaha schedule and the AAA post-season. They will attempt to package Frenchy/relief pitcher/minor leaguer for an arm this winter (and eat a bunch of Frenchy’s contract). It’s still possible that he could go in the next week to a contender, with the Royals still eating a bunch of his contract. Oh, and the one thing I totally agree with; playing Myers at 3b makes no sense to me either!

  • http://twitter.com/KCOracle KC Oracle

    You are missing a smart potential move. Moustakas to second base and Myers to third base, at least for 2013. If we are stuck with Frenchy in right field (at least to start the year), then we can maximize offense and get Myers started at third base. We don’t have a good fielding second base alternative, so why not put a 25 homer guy there.