When the Royals drafted Wil Myers in 2009, they did so largely on the basis of his bat. But even they didn’t realize he’d be this good this quickly.
The expectation was that Myers would move up to low Class A Burlington in 2010 and probably hit pretty well while learning the difficult task of handling a minor league pitching staff in his first full season as a catcher.
Myers pretty much tore that timetable to shreds. By midseason, the Royals realized that the 19-year-old had learned everything he needed to learn at the plate in the Midwest League. So they promoted him to high Class A Wilmington. The jump may have given Myers a bigger challenge, but he responded by hitting .346/.453/.512 in 205 at-bats.
And that, in a nutshell, explains why Myers will be moving to the outfield for the Royals in 2011. His bat simply proved too advanced for Kansas City to keep him behind the plate.
“His bat is more advanced than we had anticipated it would be,” Royals farm director J.J. Picollo said. “Because the bat is advanced and his catching still needs work we felt (staying at catcher) would slow his path to the big leagues. We feel like it would take another 300-350 games caught in the minors to be ready to be a major league catcher.”
The Royals do not believe that Myers will need nearly that many games to be ready to hit in the majors. By moving Myers to the outfield, he will almost assuredly begin the 2011 season at Double-A Northwest Arkansas. If he had stayed at catcher, the Royals would have faced a decision of either putting him in Double-A, where his bat was ready but his glove wasn’t, or sending him back to high Class A to work on his catching, even though his bat was too advanced for the league.
“Now if he has a good year in Double-A, we’re projecting him to big leagues by 2012 or 2013," Picollo said. "It cuts time off his minor league career. And he’ll be able to join up with a pretty good group of prospects in Double-A."
Myers began taking fly balls in the outfield during instructional league, and his future position was a constant topic of discussion during the team’s offseason organizational meetings. But a final decision to move him to the outfield was made two weeks ago. General manager Dayton Moore announced it during the team’s FanFest activities.
“He’s ahead of the curve (as far as the move to the outfield),” Picollo said. “It’s a natural thing for him. He’ll have to learn angles to balls in the gap, and the spin move on balls down the right field line to throw to second. But his natural reactions to the ball is ahead of where we thought he would be. He’s a good athlete. It’s a good fit.”
The decision will speed up Myers’ path to the big leagues, but the Royals also believe it will keep him in the lineup more once he gets there.
“We compared Wil many times to Joe Mauer. Can he be Joe Mauer? We’ve studied that. And one of the downsides is Mauer has missed playing time through his career,” Picollo said. “If Wil had went out to the Midwest League last year and performed average, if he had not had a great first year, if he was ticketed to Wilmington this year, we might have given it another year. But the bat just jumped so far ahead. He has to be challenged.”
With Myers moving to right field, Salvador Perez, a teammate of Myers’ in Wilmington last year, becomes the team’s top catching prospect. Perez will likely be the team’s everyday catcher for Double-A Northwest Arkansas in 2011. Perez, 19, hit .290/.322/.411 while throwing out 42 percent of potential basestealers last year.
“Salvador really developed in our minds into a top prospect at a premium position,” Picollo said. “He’s an outstanding catcher. Pitchers love throwing to him, and he has a good bat. To jump him past the Midwest League like he did last year, he exceeded our expectations offensively. He shortened his swing, and his body is starting to get stronger. He puts the ball in play. With him being further along than expected it made this move a little bit easier.”
In other Royals notes, Picollo said that lefthander Noel Arguelles’ recovery from his shoulder surgery has gone well and he is throwing on the side, but he will likely not be ready to pitch competitively until after spring training. Shortstop Jeff Bianchi is nearly 100 percent recovered from last year’s Tommy John surgery and will be fully ready to go when spring training begins.
And Picollo said that shortstop Christian Colon's assignment for 2011 will not be affected by the recent trade that brought in shortstop Alcides Escobar. Many scouts believe that Colon, the team's first-round pick in 2010, will fit better at second base long-term because of concerns about his range. But the Royals say for now he'll stay at shortstop.
"Christian will play shortstop with this being his first full year," Picollo said. "It doesn't mean we won't expose him to second base in pregame or maybe for a game or two, maybe in the back half of the season.
"There aren't enough shortstops in the game. We want to give Christian a chance to prove he can be a shortstop at the major league level. And we feel very confident of Christian's ability to move to second base without it being an issue if needed."
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