The Rays’ most prized possession arrived in Port Charlotte early. Wil Myers, the organization’s top prospect, checked into camp on Thursday, several days in advance of Saturday’s report date. And though his major-league debut is to be determined, the 22-year-old provided the big-league staff with a glimpse of the future during his first batting practice of the spring.
When the Rays’ were rumored to be interested in Myers, we noted his “striking bat speed” as a key attribute. Just this week, Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus raved about Myers’ “plus bat speed.” The outfielder showed his bat speed in batting practice, leaving his future coaches impressed.
“I think the thing that’s most impressive is the bat speed” said Rays’ hitting coach Derek Shelton. “The way the ball comes off his bat, and you can see it not only when he’s hitting on the field but when he’s on the tee. You don’t see very many people generate that much bat speed. First day, it’s exciting to see.” Shelton was asked to compare Myers’ bat speed to that of other members of the Rays. Once again, the praise was high. “It’s near the top” he said.
Meanwhile, Rays’ manager Joe Maddon is watching Myers from a much broader view. “For me, a lot of it has to do with just watching him and how he reacts to everything” Maddon said. The skipper is not just looking at results on the field, but how Myers reacts off of it as well.”I’m so much into that, how he interacts with the players, our conversations, what is he thinking, does it seem like he’s able to handle this right now? That’s, to me, the more pertinent part about this spring training regarding his evaluation.”
While Maddon will get to watch Myers for the next few weeks, the odds are he will not break camp with the team. In fact, Maddon may prefer it. When asked if it was easier for a prospect to be called up during the season, he said “I totally believe that. You saw, I guess [Mike] Trout did that, Bryce Harper did that, Longo (Evan Longoria) did that several years ago.” Maddon added “I just think that it’s easier for a young player with that kind of expectation level to get some time under his belt at the minor league level. Get it rolling, get the fuel going, then you know it’s going well, then walk into a big league situation is not as difficult. … Having had [no major league experience], it’s a lot more difficult. That’s my experience.”
In general, the opening days of spring training are rather mundane and routine; however, the arrival of Myers should provide welcomed entertainment. Make sure you get to the ballpark early enough (in both time and date) to enjoy the show.