Going Deep: Wil Myers. Go With the Flow
Though the San Diego Padres had already made the decision to shift Wil Myers back to the outfield full time, any notion that they were not committed to this plan disappeared with their 10-year, $300 million signing of Manny Machado last week. Now that Manny is aboard and willing to man the hot corner in Petco, Myers goes back to his natural position and should play more than 70 games in the outfield for the first time since his days as a Tampa Bay Ray in 2014. The move back to outfield doesn’t affect Myers’s value too much, as he played both positions last year as well. Both third base and outfield are deep positions and he will retain third base eligibility through this season either way, so owners can select where they would rather play him based on league rules, roster limitations and draft strategies.
Shifting to third in the middle of the season was a struggle for Myers, and he never seemed comfortable there defensively (-5.8 UZR) nor at the dish (.229/.319/.357 after the change). He admitted as much in a recent interview with ESPN: “When you go up to the plate knowing that you just made an error, giving up a run or two, you put some pressure on yourself at the plate. It will be nice not having that anymore. You push that to the side and go forward with one position I know I’m playing”. While Myers endured a disappointing 2018 season, I think he is an undervalued asset (111.07 ADP) who could provide upper tier production at either position in 2019.
Myers missed 79 games last season, catching the injury bug again after playing in over 150 games during both the 2016 and 2017 campaigns. The largest stretch of inaction was due to an oblique injury, though a bruised foot and nerve irritation in his right arm kept him out of action at other points of the season. His overall numbers suffered as a result, culminating in a .253/.318/.446 line with 11 HR and 13 SB for the season.
Most of that damage occurred immediately after his return from the oblique injury, as Myers came alive in July, swatting seven home runs, swiping three bags and generating a .278/.333/.598 line off of opposing pitching. This exciting run came to a crashing halt when Myers fouled a ball off his foot on August 2nd, resulting in another trip to the injured list. Myers received a crash course at third during this particular stint, coming back to a new position and struggling at the dish for the rest of the season.
Myers’s ADP reflects some of the reticence owners have towards him after his 2018 season. He is currently the 16th third baseman and 32nd outfielder off the board, going in between Max Muncy and Jurickson Profar at third and Dee Gordon and Eloy Jimenez in the outfield. While his current ADP is not basement level, I think Myers is being overlooked given the above average production he can offer in two areas for third base and outfield: power and speed. Over the last three seasons, here are the only 20/20 seasons put up at either position:
|Melvin Upton Jr.||2016||20||64||61||27||0.238||0.291||0.402||0.297|
Fourteen came from outfielders, with Jose Ramirez’s 2018 standing out as the lone 20/20 effort by a third baseman in that period. For reference, here are Myers’s statistics during those seasons:
Injuries ruined his chances for a third straight 20/20 effort, but Myers still flashed the ability to provide ample amounts of power and speed in his abbreviated season. A deeper look at his power shows a large drop-off in his FB% (-14%) compared to 2017, resulting in the lowest mark of his career. Despite this, Myers’s strong quality of contact (45.7% Hard%, 90.3 MPH EV, 402 ft. Avg. HR) kept his power alive, even as elements of his batted ball profile changed radically (+7.9% LD%).
Other power metrics, such as HR/FB% and ISO, remained in range with previous levels. In addition, a closer review of his speed holds up, as both UBR (2.5) and wSB (2) rated Myers positively on the basepaths. He should continue to be a strong source of power and speed in fantasy, an elite one in fact. Here is the complete list of players who have equaled or exceeded Myers’s production in those areas over the past three seasons:
If Myers is healthy, few can hope to offer his level of power and speed. Obviously, I am not encouraging you to draft Myers over any of the other players in that chart. They all clearly outperform him in other areas and should continue to fly off the board well before he does, but Myers does have the potential to outperform his ADP by a good bit in 2019. Convinced? If you are not, do not worry. I purposely buried the lede to give you the real reason behind my exuberance for Myers in 2019: his hair.
Countless players coming off of disappointing seasons have come into spring training with this phrase essentially tattooed on their forehead: “I’m in the best shape of my life”. They repeat it constantly, a mantra they hope will allow them to exorcise the demons of season’s past as they look to continue their careers. While Myers has come into camp in incredible shape (15 pounds lighter than 2017), he took the best shape of my life approach to an entirely new level, coming into camp with what Kevin Acee at the San Diego Union-Tribune called a “fantastically thick tuft of hair where before there was just forehead.” The new mane has received enthusiastic support in camp so far, making myself, Acee and several of Myers’s teammates believers that a big 2019 lies ahead for the Padres slugger.
Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire.