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December 18, 2014

Transaction Analysis

Padres Add Myers

by R.J. Anderson, Wilson Karaman and Tucker Blair

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Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Have reportedly acquired OF-R Wil Myers, C-R Ryan Hanigan, LHP Jose Castillo and RHP Gerardo Reyes in three-way trade involving Washington Nationals and Tampa Bay Rays. Padres send RHP Joe Ross and SS-R Trea Turner to Washington and C-R Rene Rivera, RHP Burch Smith and 1B-L Jake Bauers to Tampa Bay. [12/17]

(Note: The Nationals and Rays portions of this trade were broken down here.)

The James Shields-Wil Myers trade turned two years old last week, and boy has a lot happened during the intermittent period. First the Royals were mocked, then mocked some more in 2013, as Myers hit .293/.354/.478 and won the Rookie of the Year award. The jokes stopped for the most part last season, in part because Myers struggled to a .222/.294/.320 line during an injury-shortened season, and in part because the Royals nearly won the World Series. And in 2015? Well, the Royals will no longer be the most recent franchise to trade Myers; that honor will go to the Rays.

Before the Royals and Rays agreed to terms on the initial Myers trade, we wondered what it said about Myers—or any highly touted prospect—that his original team would deal him before he reached the majors. Now we must ask a different, albeit similar question: What about Myers caused two teams to invest resources in him only to move on before he could enjoy a full, healthy season in the majors?

For as much as the narrative has changed about Myers and his career, the outlook on his game remains mostly the same. His shaggy-dog haircut and long, lanky body are more befitting a collegiate swim-team captain than a middle-of-the-order fixture, yet the latter represents his upside. Sure enough, Myers has looked the part at times—particularly during the '13 season. His ability to make consistent, hard contact bodes well for his average and power potential, and he shows enough plate discipline to walk a healthy amount. Factor in his surprising speed—you don't expect a man of his size and pop to move quickly—and there's even the chance for double-digit stolen bases.

Undoubtedly that promise, wed to Myers' cost and team control through the 2019 season, is what attracted A.J. Preller to this deal. But evaluating Myers is more complicated than that, or he'd still be with the Royals or Rays. There are flaws to his game that, while excused partially due to his age, teams have been unwilling to pardon in whole.

The most headline-friendly blemish surfaced last season. There's no blaming Myers for breaking his wrist, but murmurs about his work ethic started during the rehab process. Myers seemed to confirm there was validity to the rumors after the season, when he said, "This year I kind of came into spring training thinking I had already arrived and didn't really work as hard as I should have, like I did the year before." Whereas Myers' bluntness had an aw-shucks quality to it during the good times, it raised eyebrows following a disappointing sophomore effort.

The more important faults in Myers' game are on the field. His swing makes him vulnerable to pitches down and away, and he showed no ability to adjust during the season, which meant a lot of empty swings on sliders. Still, there's no reason to fret about his overall contact abilities; for one, his strikeout rate remained the same, and for another he's a big dude with long arms, so it's natural that he'll whiff a little more often than the normal batter—besides, his in-zone contact rate was 87 percent, a far cry from the depths inhabited by George Springer and Jonathan Singleton. Provided the wrist injury has no long-term effect, and that he can refine his approach a bit in '15, he should become a valuable hitter again.

The other aspects of Myers' game are in need of improvement as well. He rates as a below-average defender despite his speed and above-average arm. To Myers' credit, he is talented at cutting balls off in the gap, but everything else needs work. On the basepaths, Myers has shown an understanding of how to take the extra base during the run of play. Sadly, he doesn't have the same confidence when it comes to swiping bases, as he's uncomfortable taking more than a one-way lead against southpaws.

Of course, when discussing those negatives, it's worth remembering the positives and that Myers is 24 years old, some 13 months older than top prospect Kris Bryant—who, unlike Myers, has not succeeded in the majors. Even with last season's struggles and the various concerns about his game, it's hard to envision a scenario where Myers fails to become a productive big-league hitter; he has the tools and the pedigree to ascend beyond that—perhaps to the level where he can solve San Diego's longstanding need for young and, above all else, talented middle-of-the-order hitters. Perhaps there is some under-the-hood issue that led the Royals and Rays to believe Myers is rotten, but if you're the Padres, it's worth the risk to find out for certain.

Hanigan should replace Rivera as the Padres' everyday starter. If it's tempting to suggest the two are a lot alike, that's because they are—each gleans their value from defensive responsibilities, like receiving and staff-handling. But they do deviate in a few significant areas, including age, cost, and offense.

Whereas the 31-year-old Rivera was aggressive at the plate with more power to show for his efforts, the 34-year-old Hanigan commands the zone and makes a lot of contact. It's not always good contact though, which explains his status as a below-average hitter. Hanigan, who made two trips to the disabled list in '14, will turn 35 in-season, will have to prove that his durability isn't a concern heading forward. Either way, he'll be under contract through the 2016 season, with a club option in place for 2017 (Rivera, for comparison's sake, is also under control through the '17 season). By then, the Padres should have a different starting catcher in place, so Hanigan could slot in as a backup. —R.J. Anderson

Gerardo Reyes may be the throw-in of this large deal, but he flashed power stuff in his entrance to professional baseball. The 21-year-old righty was inconsistent in his time with Hudson Valley, but left scouts intrigued due to his power fastball and slider combination. The fastball routinely sits 92-96 mph, with hard arm-side run and deception due to a slight whip and twist in his delivery. The slider plays well off the fastball, showing hard tilt to go along with average command, but can be inconsistent with release points. There are still some inconsistencies in his game, as the fastball command will need to tighten up. He also lacks an above average plane—as he throws from a lower 3/4th arm slot—so it remains to be seen how this plays at higher levels where the deception does not fool the adept hitters. Reyes could be a sneaky pickup for the Padres, and should move quickly as a one-inning, max effort reliever.

A young arm who has missed time due to injury, Castillo has the raw ingredients to be a valuable pitcher down the road. His fastball can hit the mid-90s, but the secondary pitches are far behind and he lacks feel for his arsenal. As with any 18-year-old, development will be the key factor in his value moving forward. —Tucker Blair

Fantasy Impact

Wil Myers

The arrow does not point as dramatically down here as conventional wisdom might suggest, but the move nevertheless does dent Myers’ value just a bit. San Diego certainly played as a less soul-crushing park for right-handed power last year than it has in the past, but it was still a terrible place to hit. That said, Tampa played only very marginally better last year. And while on the surface this move represents a move from one bottom-five offense (Tampa finished 2014 ranked 27th in runs scored) to another (San Diego was dead last), it’s worth noting that the Tampa offense fairly dramatically underperformed its potential, as they checked in a much more palatable 14th in team TAv. The (still “potential”) addition of Matt Kemp should help to improve the Padre lineup context, but it still probably projects as a slightly poorer unit than Tampa would have. He also leaves an AL East that featured three of the eight worst opposing pitching staffs in baseball by FIP. Especially coming off the down sophomore campaign it’s possible Myers’ value drops enough to offset the harsher context and then some, but the direct implications of the move won’t help those investing in a bounceback.

Carlos Quentin/Seth Smith/Will Venable

Especially with the specter of Matt Kemp probably/possibly/maybe jumping on board, there’s suddenly very little room at the corner outfield inn. As I noted in my Padre team preview none of these guys projected to offer a ton of room for positive return on investment, and this deal pretty much seals their respective fates. Quentin and Smith seem particularly likely to be odd men out, as Venable should at least has the opportunity to battle the oft-injured Cameron Maybin for reps in center. But at a minimum the lost playing time opportunities in right field figure to drop Venable down to the rank of NL-only target. Provided they remain with the team, Smith and Quentin now slide down into the realm of fifth outfield options reserved for only the very deepest formats to worry about on draft day.

Rymer Liriano

Liriano gets his own little section because this deal in tandem with the prospective Kemp deal leaves his 2015 a whole lot further up in the air than it figured to be just two weeks ago. While he struggled mightily in his cup of coffee last summer he still managed to pop 15 homers and steal 24 bases across 600 plate appearances. With just the motley crew above standing in his way for big league playing time he figured to be one of the better prospect stash options in NL-only and deeper mixed leagues next spring. But with these moves he’s now buried on the depth chart for the time being, and the potential for a significant contribution next summer has dimmed significantly.

Ryan Hanigan

All of the ballpark and division issues outlined above apply to Hanigan as well, and given the current states of the catching depth charts on both teams there’s really not a whole lot of difference. He gets the sideways arrow instead of the down arrow I slapped on Myers because of the degree of scale involved: He was a fringy AL-only option before, and he’s a fringy NL-only option now. He gets a boost in OBP leagues, but he really hasn’t shown enough pop to warrant much love even in that format. —Wilson Karaman

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here
Wilson Karaman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Wilson's other articles. You can contact Wilson by clicking here
Tucker Blair is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Tucker's other articles. You can contact Tucker by clicking here

Related Content:  San Diego Padres,  Tampa Bay Rays

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