The world had forgotten about Wil Myers because patience is notoriously non-existent in fantasy baseball. Owners throw away historically consistent producers for flash-in-the-pan hot streaks every year. I join a random ESPN public league each year—I also enjoy flipping the difficulty mode on FIFA16 from professional to beginner from time to time so I can win by a dozen-plus goals—and someone dropped David Price after his early struggles. That’s obviously an extreme example of what I’m talking about; however, any serious fantasy player will be well acquainted with the impulse to make knee-jerk decisions based solely upon hot streaks.
Taking a more macro-level view, the fantasy community bases too many decisions about young major leaguers on early career performance. Guys like Taylor Jungmann and Matt Shoemaker transform into shrewd late-round sleepers, while former uber prospects like Eric Hosmer and even Manny Machado lose their luster because they weren’t immediate big-league contributors upon arrival.
It’s trite to say that development paths aren’t linear. It’s not trite, however, to assert that fantasy owners routinely miss out on breakout players because they don’t appreciate the non-linearity enough. Jonathan Schoop hit .256/.301/.396 in Triple-A in 2013 before he was rushed to the majors at just 22 years old. He was a top-101 prospect for three-consecutive years at Baseball Prospectus, yet fantasy owners wrote him off as too impatient and a low-average, middling power hitter who was poised to wash out—perhaps much like Dayan Viciedo. The Curacao native is now a top-10 fantasy second baseman and looks to be one of the brightest in the league.
And, yes, the world had largely forgotten Wil Myers. He was the 18th-overall fantasy first baseman in preseason drafts, selected behind guys like Byung Ho Park and Mark Teixeira. The 25-year-old had become the shining example for those who accused many fans (and teams) of hugging their prospects too tightly. Even top-tier prospects could fail. In other words, present production always trumps future projection in many minds.
We’re now after the All-Star Break and Myers is hitting .284/.355/.523 with 20 homers and 16 stolen bases. Over the last 30 days, he’s the no. 1 fantasy player in ESPN leagues, regardless of position. Myers has seemingly taken the step that he was supposed to have taken three years ago, and too many people had written him off because he was supposed to have taken that step three years ago.
To be fair, it was a difficult breakout to expect, even with the myriad of injuries that sidelined Myers for various periods of time. Dave Cameron illustrated that it’s excruciatingly difficult for guys to improve their contact rate and their power after they turn 25. There just isn’t much precedent.
It’s July 18th, and Wil Myers has done both. He’s drastically improved his contact rate and his ISO. Myers had a career-high 76.3 percent contact rate in 2015. That number ballooned to 81.1 percent, which is nowhere close to Martin Prado’s major-league-leading 91.4 percent, but it’s light years above what it was before. Hell, just the fact that his swinging-strike rate dropped from 9.9 percent to 7.8 percent is impressive in its own right. The fact that such bat-to-ball improvement is paired with an ISO jump from .173 to .241 is incredible. It bucks the common narrative that guys trade contact for power, and vice versa.
That’s not to suggest that Dave Cameron was wrong. He wasn’t. He never suggested that Wil Myers wouldn’t make this jump. Instead, he depicted how unlikely it would be, given past examples. The fact that Myers has suddenly performed at an All-Star level is more a manifestation of his minor-league promise and a reflection of how injuries played a big part in his development stagnation.
This improvement also comes in Petco Park, one of the most difficult hitter’s parks in all of baseball. Yet he’s hitting .339/.399/.651 at home. That reinforces the notion that his prodigious power totals are legitimate and not a mirage. It’s doing this despite his home ballpark, rather than because of it. Unlike so many other fantasy producers that we discuss. His .313 BABIP is also below his career norm, which should make everyone feel better that he’s due for massive regression.
So, yeah, it’s a breakout that is a couple of years late. We get stories like this every year. You’d think that fantasy owners would learn that patience is a key virtue when it comes to former top prospects and their bust potential. The talent will often shine through—just not as quickly as we’d like.
Perhaps one could argue that I’m advocating prospect-hugging due to a fear that they could breakout after one already cut bait. Maybe I am. But it hurts so much when your former fantasy assets become studs and you don’t get to enjoy their fruits because you were too quick to cut ties.
BUYER’S ADVICE: BUY
Wil Myers offers a unique power/speed profile at the first base position. He’s improved his contact rate, which was much needed, and his power has consistently manifested itself in game situations. He is the no.1 fantasy first baseman this year in ESPN leagues. Number one. It would be nice if he was surrounded by a better supporting cast, but he’s been money without it. If the Padres promote players like Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot, and Carlos Asuaje, that could turn around a bit. As with the theme of the article, though, such improvements are more likely to become realized in future seasons… so dynasty leaguers have hope there.
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