Now healthy, Myers ready for next chapter with Padres

Young outfielder confident he can bounce back in San Diego's lineup

January 6th, 2015

SAN DIEGO -- At this point, Wil Myers can't be certain the Rays gave up on him after two short seasons, nor does he really care at this point.

Myers said Tuesday that he's ready to start a new chapter of his professional career with the Padres -- the team that traded for him last month.

"When I talked to [Rays general manager Matt Silverman], he said it wasn't 'giving up' anything, it was just a business decision," Myers said. "I can't say what's right or wrong, but I'm going to do everything that I can to make sure [Padres general manager A.J. Preller] looks like he won this trade."

Myers was one of three outfielders Preller obtained last month and he'll play center field, flanked by Justin Upton in left field and Matt Kemp in right field, giving the offensively-starved Padres a much-needed infusion of production for 2015.

The Padres acquired Myers as the key piece in a complicated three-team deal that involved the Nationals and Rays and a handful of prospects and Major League players going to both teams.

In the middle of it all -- literally -- will be the 24-year-old Myers, the 2013 American League Rookie of the Year and former uber-prospect, who tore his way through the Minor Leagues and then was grounded a year ago because of a nagging right wrist injury.

Myers hit .222/.294/.320 in 361 plate appearances a year ago for the Rays, a season that never quite got off the ground. Preller said Tuesday that injury and Myers' struggles in 2014 might have actually led to the Rays making him available.

"Probably because of that, we had a chance to acquire him," Preller said.

Myers, who said his wrist is healthy, is ready to move past a disastrous 2014 and on to a new chapter in his career -- with a third and, what he hopes is his final organization. He worked out Tuesday at Petco Park, lifting weights and also hitting with new hitting coach Mark Kotsay.

"I think people forget that this was my first bad year. Everyone talks about my swing was this, my swing was that," he said. "A lot of that had to do with being hurt, trying to make changes in my swing to get to pitches that I could get to when I was healthy. I didn't have my top hand where I wanted it to be and that came from not being 100 percent."

Steamer projections on FanGraphs put Myers at .247/.323/.412 with 18 home runs and 62 RBIs. Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projections have Myers at .266/.335/.441 with the Padres, including an OPS+ of 121 and a 2.5 WAR (Wins Above Replacement).

Preller is expecting big things -- in 2015 and beyond -- from a player he feels is just starting to scratch the surface of his potential.

"From Day 1 in Minor League baseball, he's been very productive," Preller said of Myers.

Myers will be challenged by playing center field, a position at which he's appeared in only nine games over the last two seasons. He has, however, played 100 games in center field in the Minor Leagues.

On Tuesday, he got a look at the wide-open spaces of Petco Park's outfield. What did he think?

"I think every center field is big," Myers said, smiling. "I think the biggest challenge of playing center field will be getting used to the ballpark, the backdrop behind home plate."

To be sure, there are questions to be answered about Myers. What's his true upside? Can he improve his contact rate? How will he fit defensively in center field? What kind of run-producer will he eventually become at the big league level?

Myers said he's ready to tackle all of them, beginning next month when the team reports to Arizona for the start of Spring Training.

"I'm working hard this offseason to be healthy and do some big things. I'm ready to come out and do some big things," he said.