Season Of Promise Fulfilled: Wil Myers Wins Rookie Of Year Award
After hitting .313/.387/.600 with 37 homers between his time with the Kansas City Royals Double-A affiliate Northwest Arkansas Naturals and their Triple-A affiliate Omaha Storm Chasers he was named Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year.
On December 9, 2012 the Tampa Bay Rays finally made the move and dealt James Shields, Wade Davis, and a player to be named later (Elliot Johnson) to the Kansas City Royals for Myers, pitchers Jake Odorizzi and Wade Davis, and third baseman Patrick Leonard.
Myers admits to not being close to any of the Royals current MLB players, doesn’t get any extra satisfaction from winning the award in that regard, and doesn’t feel the Royals gave up on him. He feels they, “just made a move that would better their team and it did. But for me just to be able to win this award is just a big honor. It’s always nice to win personal awards but at the end of the year you want to win the team award and the World Series.”
He reported to Spring Training with the Rays in hopes of winning a job on the 25-man roster but due to the economics of the game as well as the Rays-way of wanting a complete player who requires no additional finishing at the time of call up he was sent down to the their Triple-A affiliate Durham Bulls to begin the season.
While many questioned the Rays motives it was apparent during the early season that he may have been pressing to adjust to a new organization, wasn’t feeling comfortable at the plate, or a combination of both.
In his first 43 games with the Bulls he went through more valleys than peaks and was hitting a pedestrian .242/.333/.388 with just 5 home runs in 165 at-bats. A hitter with his talent is going to find his groove once he relaxes and organizes his strike zone and that is exactly what he did at the end of May through his call up in June. Over his next 21 games he hit a sizzling .368/.404/.770 with 9 home runs in 95 at-bats.
Of his time in Triple-A Myers was honest saying, “I started off in Durham and after the first two or three weeks in Durham I started struggling bad and I got down to hitting like .230 and it was something I had never been through before and I didn’t really think I was going to get to the big leagues that year. But I was able to hit a hot streak and get up to the big leagues and help my team. That was the most important thing to help a team that was in a playoff race and just come up there and contribute.”
After he began to tattoo the ball over the diamond in Triple-A and after the service clock in determining eligibility for Super 2 (arbitration) had passed the Rays summoned him to the majors. He’d make his debut on the road through AL East rivals Boston and New York.
On June 22nd in New York he was in the awkward position of coming to the plate after the opposing manager (Joe Girardi) had C.C. Sabathia intentionally walk Evan Longoria to face him with the bases loaded. Myers responded by hitting his first major league home run, a grand slam, to the opposite field in right.
“I did not feel like I got it” Myers said after the game, “I knew it’d go deep, I didn’t know if it was going out.” As for having a guy intentionally walked in front of him at any level of baseball he said, “no, that was a first for me but it’s a pretty cool situation to be able to do that after the intentional walk.”
In his first plate appearance at Tropicana Field he came up after James Loney had connected for a solo homer and gave the crowd a thrill by delivering a monster home run off the facing of the restaurant in straight away center field resulting in a resounding call from the crowd. Shortly after acknowledging the ovation and coming out of the dugout for a curtain call Sam Fuld followed Loney and Myers for a homer of his own to make it back-to-back-to-back homers for the Rays. Of the curtain call Myers said, “yeah, it was pretty cool playing here at home and just able to put a good swing on a good pitch right there and help my team win.”
Although just 22 years old Myers was given time at the designated hitter position and occasional days off. Manager Joe Maddon had said that he had some concern that the mental fatigue of playing meaningful baseball late into September and hopefully into October could take a toll on him.
At the end of August and into early September it appeared that the grind was getting to him. From August 16 to September 3rd he hit only .127 (7 for 55) with only two extra base hits (doubles) in that span. Whether it was a second wind or just reorganizing his strike zone his numbers in the crucial month of September were much better. From September 3rd through the end of the month he hit .323 (32 for 99) with 16 extra base hits including 12 doubles and 4 home runs in that span.
Joe Maddon believes Myers handled the end of the year pressure well. “He found out that it’s not easy. I think he found out, or understood, that when you get to that part of the year you really shouldn’t change what you do – how you do things. Just continue to bring your game, your work on a daily basis.”
Myers came to the Rays with high expectation. Being traded for James Shields, the expectations of filling the promise of being Baseball America’s Player of the Year, joining the Rays and having to be a big producer to lead the team to the playoffs in September. This award is the icing on the cake an award that Joe Maddon feels will “motivate him to work even harder.”
The future is bright for Myers and their is already a wide spread belief that the Rookie of the Year Award will be only the first of many post season accolades awaiting the young outfielder.