Wil Myers Is Living Up to His Immense Potential

After struggling with injuries in recent years, Myers, a former top prospect, is having a monster season for the Padres.

A lot of things have gone wrong for the San Diego Padres lately.

The team is mired in another losing season, 10 games out of first in the National League West with virtually no shot of making the playoffs, per our algorithms. The Padres haven't been over .500 since 2010, and they haven't made the postseason since 2006, although they came excruciatingly close in 2010 and 2007.

This season hasn't been a complete loss, though, as the organization has been able to improve their farm system thanks to a pair of deals with the Boston Red Sox, but maybe more importantly, they've found a potential franchise centerpiece in Wil Myers.

Highs and Lows

Myers was an extremely highly-rated prospect. Drafted in the third round by the Kansas City Royals back in 2009, Myers mashed his way through the minors, eventually becoming Baseball America's number four overall prospect in 2013.

That was Myers' first season in the Tampa Bay Rays' system. He was dealt to the Rays as part of a package -- along with, most notably, Jake Odorizzi -- that landed Kansas City James Shields and Wade Davis, the latter of whom, at the time, had just recently been moved to the bullpen. Even though Shields and Davis were known commodities who were expected to -- and eventually did -- help the Royals right away, Kansas City was blasted for the deal due in large part to Myers' status as a can't-miss prospect.

Myers debuted for the Rays in 2013, his age-22 season, and was a straight boss, racking up a .353 wOBA with 13 jacks and 5 steals over 373 plate appearances. The showing led to Myers winning the American League Rookie of the Year Award.

Things went downhill from there.

Not only did Myers struggle with injuries -- his wrist, in particular -- but he didn't produce when he was on the field.

Myers posted a disappointing .275 wOBA with just 6 bombs in 361 plate appearances in 2014, a steep fall from his rookie season. His power, possibly from injuries, was gone, and his hard-hit rate plummeted.

Plate Appearances wOBA ISO Home Runs Hard-Hit Rate
2013 373 0.357 .185 13 38.7%
2014 361 0.275 .098 6 31.6%

In a very short time, Myers' stock fell, and Tampa Bay shipped him to San Diego. Myers was part of a three-team swap that didn't really feature much star power -- unlike his last deal -- although Joe Ross and Steven Souza have become quality big leaguers. San Diego, basically, bought low on Myers, and it's paid off.

The Padres didn't reap the rewards immediately, though.

Myers' 2015 campaign, his first with the team, was again hampered by injuries. On the bright side, he played much better when he was healthy, registering a .334 wOBA, .173 ISO and 8 long balls in 253 plate appearances.

It set the stage for this year.

Where There's A Wil

Myers has been doing big things this year, and it looks like he's finally become the star many had prognosticated.

After accruing 3.0 fWAR through his first 987 career plate appearances, Myers has amassed 3.6 fWAR in 396 plate appearances this season. He's boasting a .368 wOBA with 20 dingers, a 21.2% strikeout rate and .236 ISO -- all of which are career-best marks.

That's what a breakout looks like in numbers. Here's what it looks like in action.

Dude's got that grown man power, and there's just something about doing it with no batting gloves that makes it extra nasty.

Myers is putting up these gaudy numbers despite playing in one of the game's most pitcher-friendly environments. Petco Park ranks 29th in park factor, but he don't care: 14 of his 20 taters have come at home.

This kind of pop is something the offensively starved Padres just haven't had much of in recent years. Since the start of the 2014 campaign, they've had just one player (Justin Upton) surpass the 20-homer mark, which Myers has done already. Chase Headley was the last San Diego player to clear the 30-bomb plateau when he launched 31 home runs in 2012. Heck, in 2014, the team had just four guys hit double-digit dongs.

What's Changed

First and foremost, Myers is healthy. His 396 plate appearances are the most he's ever logged in a big-league season. If he was healthy, maybe he would've done this all along. After all, he crushed 37 homers across 591 plate appearances in Double- and Triple-A in 2012, so he's displayed big-time power when he's been able to stay off the disabled list.

To keep him healthy, San Diego has moved him to first base. Myers was drafted as a catcher, played some third in the minors and then moved to the outfield. After all that, it looks like he's found a home at first. While the move to a fairly non-impactful defensive position hurts his overall value a tad, it's a sacrifice the Padres will be more than happy to make to keep Myers' stick in the lineup on an everyday basis.

Health hasn't been the only reason for Myers' breakout season. He's made some tangible improvements at the plate.

While his 36.9% hard-hit rate is solid, it's only a slight improvement from his 34.7% hard-hit rate from 2015. On top of that, his 15.1% soft-hit rate is actually a career-worst mark. One of the things Myers is really doing better -- as simple as it sounds -- is hitting the ball a lot more often.

Season Contact Rate
2013 74.5%
2014 76.1%
2015 76.3%
2016 80.7%

But even more than the fact that he's making more -- and slightly better -- contact, it's where he's hitting the ball that's really changed.

Season Pull Rate Center Rate Opposite Field Rate
2013 44.8% 34.7% 20.6%
2014 48.9% 28.3% 22.8%
2015 44.1% 37.6% 18.2%
2016 35.8% 41.0% 23.2%

It sure looks like Myers has made more of an effort to use the entire field. He's pulling the ball a lot less frequently than he used to, opting to go up the middle and to the opposite field at career-high rates.

A player who can put up big power numbers while spraying the ball across the yard is a rare commodity.

The Padres have themselves a young bat to build around, which they haven't had since Adrian Gonzalez. If recent reports are true, it sounds like they want to keep Myers in San Diego for a while. With key additions to the farm system -- namely Manuel Margot and Anderson Espinoza -- from dealing Pomeranz and Craig Kimbrel to the Red Sox, the Padres may be on their way back to contention in the near future.