Fantasy Baseball

Wil Myers Repeat?

Last year, several outfits, including my former locale and I, were touting Wil Myers as a trendy sleeper pick.  A good combination of power, some speed and an increased likelihood of health with a position change.  While some people may have seen the 28 homers coming, no one saw the 28 steals that would match it.  Myers also scored 99 runs and drove in 94 with a triple-slash of .259/.336/.461.

Predictably, after such a productive year and the decline in the quality of 1B, Myers is currently going at pick 59.47 and as the 7th overall 1B (his ADP would place him as the 17th over all OF – for those leagues that have the additional eligibility).  Although Myers always hinted at mid-teens type stolen base upside with multiple years where he posted double digits across different levels, no fantasy owner ever thought 28 SB was an attainable number for him.  This is one part of the equation with Myers – will the speed stick around and if it fades, to what extent will it fade?

The other major part of the equation is whether Myers can stay healthy.  An answer, which is impossible to determine with any certainty.  However, we can bake in the injury risk through a projection for less than a full year of games.  Considering that Myers missed more than half of 2014 and 2015, I do not think it is prudent to pencil him in for another 157 games in 2017 just because he did it in 2016.  So let’s start there…

I admittedly do not have a scientific method for determining my games projected, but I will normally dock a player that has been consistently hurt – two seasons with substantial time missed as a very loose definition – about 30-40 games and then give 10 games back for each subsequent healthy year unless I know the issue is ongoing – see Daivd Wright.  With that said, my projection for Myers would be a very unscientific 135 games, which gives him most the year as active and healthy, a few days off and a short DL stint.  So for instance, if Myers lost those games and that production last year, he would still pace out to a very productive HR/SB total of 24/24.

Surprisingly, there is no huge change to Myers’s batted ball mix – his LD%, GB%, FB%, IFFB% were within 2.2 percentage points of his career average.  Aside from noting that his Hard Contact rate was slightly down, there is nothing in the quality of contact that stands out either.  What did change was the direction where Myers ended up hitting the ball.  He traded some points of pull percentage for some balls headed to the opposite field.  Myers also carried over the significant jump from 2015 in the amount of his batted balls that ended up in the center of the diamond.  What does this mean?  A couple of things…

First, if Myers is hitting less pulled flyballs, that is not good for his power and with a 2016 HR/FB% of 18.7% above the 14.5% career average, we can probably expect a little power regression from the pace that he put together last year.  His Statcast data is slightly above average, but overall unimpressive – he looks like a player that’s going to hit between 20 and 25 home runs over a full season, which supports the theory that there is a slight power regression coming.  However, it also indicates, as you would suspect, that 28 is not some far-fetched 1% upside outcome for a player of Myers skill.  The potential for such a total is made evident by looking Myers home run tracker, which has 22 of his 28 home runs categorized as either Plenty or No Doubt.

Second, an up the middle approach is more friendly to batting average and will make Myers less susceptible to shifts.  So maybe, we have a little batting average/power trade-off in the projection.  I think we can safely conclude on a rate basis – Myers will be worth about the same when looking at the combination of batting average and power.

With respect to his speed, Myers’s stolen base totals were not a volume result, he stole with over an 80% success rate – 28 of 34.  Further, his steals were steady from the first half (15 of 18) to the second half (13 of 16).  While there is no guarantee that Myers will attempt 30+ steals again, San Diego is once again a bad team that will need to create offense and is unlikely to inhibit Myers on the basepaths for strategy purposes.

However, Myers did just sign a 6 year contract extension worth $83 million from the Padres.  Could a long-term investment lead to a change in how careful the team is Myers on the basepaths especially considering his injury past, particularly with his wrist?  I think it’s more probable than not.  I seriously doubt that San Diego will red light Myers completely, but I think they may ask him to reel it back a bit.  Let’s be aggressive here and say they cut Myers stolen base attempts by about a third – giving him 22 attempts.  With his success rate from last year, that comes to a full season total of 18 stolen bases.

There are also two other factors that we can weigh in on simultaneously since they are rather interrelated.  In the second half, Myers slumped pretty badly.  After a first half where Myers hit 19 homers with a .286/.351/.522 triple-slash, Myers hit 9 homers while triple-slashing .223/.316/.381.  The root of the problem was the strikeout rate, which rose from 20.6% in the first half to 27.6% in the second half.

Much of that second half sample was after the Matt Kemp trade.  While Kemp is maligned for being an albatross contract and not a particularly good player at this point in his career, the lineup was much better with him than without him.  This is one of the big questions with Myers – can he overcome a poor lineup?

I think that is another area where Myers needs to be regressed slightly.  I do not see how Myers duplicates his run and RBI totals from a year ago with what is around him (even if prospect Hunter Renfroe hits right away).

So let’s get to the projection – if I had 157 games or a full season of Wil Myers, I would project him as follows: .261/.331/.455 with 82 Rs, 24 HR, 84 RBI, 18 SB.  If we trim that down to 135 games, the counting stats become: 70 Rs, 21 HR, 72 RBI, 15 SB.  Overall, that is still a very good player.  Essentially, Gregory Polanco from a year ago, who finished as the 122 overall player and 27th among OFs.  If you add in some replacement production, you probably have a top 100 type player.

If you are buying at his current ADP and hoping to profit though, he needs to keep all his gains AND stay healthy.  I think that is a losing bet.



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