A significant portion of the time I spend filling this space is used arguing that organizations need to be more patient with their prospects. In general, I fall on the slower side of the developmental spectrum, believing that the best use of resources, especially for the less-wealthy organizations, is to hold prospects off from the majors until they are the closest versions of their finished product as possible. I'm also a strong believer in the damage that can be done to prospects who are promoted too quickly, whether from minor league level to minor league level or all the way to the majors, and firmly believe that the worst thing an organization can do is yo-yo a prospect up and down from the majors. We'll call it the Travis Snider Consequence.
But then there's the Tampa Bay Rays, who by comparison make me look like Julia Roberts' roommate in Pretty Woman, willing to give it away for $50 to get a top prospect into the lineup on a Friday night.
The Rays have taken an approach to promoting prospects that can only be described as glacial, and given their success developing prospects during their five-year stretch of being competitive, they have become something of a symbol for the argument of patient development. For them it's a necessity, needing to hold off their young talent until they are truly ready to make an impact, while simultaneously spacing out the inexpensive years of their top talents.
Which is why Wil Myers began the year in Triple-A, despite coming off of this season last year:
|2012||2 Teams||2 Lgs||AAA-AA||134||591||522||98||164||26||6||37||109||6||3||61||140||.314||.387||.600||.987||313||11||4||0||4||2|
The Rays have still yet to call up Myers, who admittedly is struggling this season back in Triple-A, hitting just .242/.337/.385 on the season. His walk rate is actually at 12.1 percent, up from last year, and his strike out rate is at a not great but manageable 26.8 percent. It's just his power that hasn't been there, as shown by his .143 ISO. And hitting .242 with neutral luck doesn't help either.
But he'd still be a better option than a lot of what the Rays are trotting out in their lineups these days. Winch is the exact argument I hate when teams so frequently make, yet am about to now make myself.
For most teams, the argument of "our prospect may not be ready but he's better than what we have" is a near-sighted philosophy at should only be employed by teams near the end of a competitive run who are on the verge of rebuilding. The Phillies, for instance, could be defended if they were to rush a prospect to the majors to give it one more go with Utley, Lee, etc. Of course, they don't have any such prospects, but that's a story for another day.
It's difficult to make the case that Myers is not ready for the majors. Despite his struggles this season, he's now had almost a full year of plate appearances at the highest level of the minors and has hit .286/.366/.505 while there. Most of that success came last season, but it's also understandable to see a 22-year-old kid play somewhat unmotivated baseball when he knows he's ready for the next level, so I'm not too worried about Myers' performance this season. He has enough of a track record.
As a potentially contending team in desperate need of another impact bat, the Rays can only justify Myers' current status as a minor leaguer with financial arguments. These are the same arguments that have kept them in contention for a half-decade despite a payroll annually near the bottom of the league, making them tough to argue with. But the despite an overwhelmingly successful organizational philosophy that has kept the Rays in contention, the 2013 Rays must look also consider what is specifically best for them, and that means Wil Myers.
The Rays currently sit at 24-22, but in fourth place in the highly competitive American League East. They are in the thick of the race, but even if they rise to the top of it, they are unlikely to run away, especially within their own division. That being the case, one win might make all the difference, perhaps between winning the division or not, perhaps between having to appear in the coin-flip of a one-game playoff, or perhaps from playing in October altogether.
The Rays are undoubtedly keeping Myers in the minors until June for Super-2 reasons. If he develops as expected into one of the better hitters in the game, holding him off for another 2-3 weeks could save the Rays $2-3 million in the 2016 season and roughly $10 million over the course of his first six years of team control. That's no small potatoes. For a team like the Rays, that's an infielder.
But the clock is ticking on the Rays. Gone are James Shields, Matt Garza and Carl Crawford, and David Price is soon to follow. They've done a good job of replacing every departed veteran to this point, but the task becomes more difficult with each passing draft in which they now select at the bottom of the first round instead of the top. Voluntarily making Myers more expensive won't make it any easier to keep their core in tact, but it could be the difference between whether or not they get Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist a title.
Myers is likely going to be called up to the majors within the next three weeks. For him to have a one-win difference for the Rays between now and then, Myers would have to be the equivalent of a 8-win player over that stretch. Myers is not an 8-win player, not as a rookie and probably not ever. But that's the issue we sometimes forget when we break things down sabermetrically - the difference in one additional win over the next three weeks for the Rays may come down to just one additional hit in the right situation, and Myers is a better option to get it than Ryan Roberts, Shelly Duncan or Sean Rodriguez. Playing at an 8-win level isn't something Myers can do for six months at this point in his career, but he could do it for three weeks.
Wil Myers is a a solid outfielder and has seen some time at third base should the Rays decide to explore his versatility, but most importantly, he is a talented hitter in an organization that consists of a number of hitters who are not. The additional cost of calling up Myers could slightly handcuff the Rays in the future, and it's a move that probably should have been made about a month ago, but it's not too late. Even one extra month of Wil Myers in the majors could be the difference in the AL East.