Fantasy Baseball: How Does Moving to the Outfield Impact Wil Myers' Value
The move is curious for a multitude of reasons. For one, the Padres are still in the midst of a rebuilding phase -- they have not had a winning record since 2010, notching 77 wins or less in each of the last seven years -- and they are not known for splashing the cash.
One thing that adds to the intrigue of the move is that the Padres recently paid a first baseman in Wil Myers. Myers turned a career 2016 season into a six-year deal worth $83 million in total. He will come cheap this year and next, earning $2 million this year and $3 million next year, before his contract balloons to $20 million in each of 2020, 2021, and 2022.
The Hosmer signing will relocate Myers back to the outfield, where he spent the vast majority of his career prior to 2016. The move to the outfield has complications for Myers and the Padres on the field, but it also changes how we should view Myers as a fantasy asset.
Myers' Recent Track Record
Before we check where Myers holds up in comparison to outfielders, we need to see how he did in 2017. At the plate, he wasn't quite as great last year as he was in 2016, but it was pretty close.
In addition to his solid numbers, one of Myers' biggest accomplishments in 2017 was staying healthy for the second straight season, something that had been an issue for him prior to the past two years. He topped out at 373 single-season plate appearances in his first three years, and that came in his rookie campaign (2013). He finally shook the injury bug in 2016, and he kept it away in 2017. His wRC+ fell a little bit, as did his OPS, but it's not a big enough drop to cause concern.
Another thing Myers carried over from his breakout season is his power. He hit 28 home runs in 2016 -- after hitting 27 over the first three years of his career -- and he launched 30 last year. His power boom has the chance to be a legitimate one, as well -- he had surgery to remove a bone spur in his wrist in 2015, an issue that was said to have bothered him for most of his life. Wrist issues are terrible for hitters, so it may not be a coincidence that his best power numbers came after the issue was fixed surgically. In addition to that, Myers' 41.4% hard-hit rate and 42.9% fly-ball rate from 2017 indicate that he's the real deal as a power threat.
All in all, 2017 more or less verified Myers' status as one of the better hitters in baseball.
First Base or Outfield?
Myers moving from first base to the outfield obviously has fantasy implications. To start the year, he'll be eligible at only first base in most leagues, but he'll quickly gain outfield eligibility. (For those in dynasty formats, Myers may lose his first-base eligibility for 2019 depending on how often he's used there this season.)
The vast majority of Myers' numbers at first base were rather average due to the strong offense that routinely comes from the position -- although his steals made him a unicorn of sorts at the position. His 30 home runs ranked 11th among first basemen, but his OPS checked in 22nd and his wRC+ was 20th. He had 20 steals last year, which led all first basemen, and only three other first baseman had at least 10 steals last year. That gave him value despite his middling OPS and wRC+ numbers.
The move to the outfield makes his dingers look more appealing. His 30 home runs last season would've tied for the 12th-most at the position, and while that's almost identical to his standing among first basemen, it's not an apples-to-apples comparison across positions since you need to start just one first baseman while you need to start at least three outfielders (maybe more). His OPS fell all the way to 28th among outfielders, however, and his wRC+ fell to 25th. Steals are still at a premium in the outfield, as they are at every position in baseball, and his 20 swipes would have been tied for 10th.
The biggest thing about the move to the outfield may be that it increases Myers' injury risk. Myers has spent two full seasons at first, and those have been his only two healthy years. Is that a coincidence, or did a less-taxing defensive position help him stay healthy? Time will tell, but it's definitely something to think about.
Shifting to the outfield may ding Myers' value a bit. That's mostly because there are simply more players for him to compete against, and there are some incredible hitting talents at the top of the outfield group. As a first baseman with both speed and pop, Myers was a rarity, but with the lack of steals around baseball right now, Myers' speed-power combo is far from common, even among outfielders.
As long as he stays healthy, Myers should be a good fantasy contributor, and the biggest impact of his move to the outfield may be an increased risk of injury.