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Myers' powerful year earns MiLBY

Outfielder knocks 37 homers, 109 RBIs to erase difficult 2011
October 23, 2012
MiLBYs are the end-of-season awards that honor the best players, teams and performances of the Minor League season. For three weeks, fans chose their favorites in 11 categories, and now we're announcing the Fans' Choice winners as well as staff picks for the major awards.

If someone was looking for a single day that captures the kind of season Wil Myers had this year, July 8 wouldn't be a bad place to start.

Before he had done anything in a game that factored into his statistics and from a fan base he had yet to actually play for, Myers found himself on the receiving end of a standing ovation.

It was the Futures Game in Kansas City, and Royals fans watched their top prospect step to the plate in person for the first time.

He grounded out to second, bringing in a run from third. On his way back to the dugout, they cheered for him again. When he singled to right field in his next at-bat, they cheered a bit louder.

When he lifted a fly ball to center in the sixth, Royals fans took on the immediate hush, the kind that a Buster Posey fly ball elicits in San Francisco or Miguel Cabrera can command in Detroit. When it landed in Oscar Taveras' glove for a sacrifice fly, they cheered for his second RBI.

And when he punched a single to left in his final at-bat, bringing in yet another run, he got perhaps his loudest cheers since the initial standing O.

That day, perhaps better than any other that Myers had this season, serves to highlight one point: People in Kansas City are very excited about Wil Myers.

They have every reason to be.

Darin Ruf, Reading

The only man to finish with more home runs in the Minors than Wil Myers this year was Double-A Reading's Darin Ruf. The 26-year-old first baseman belted 38 for the Phillies while driving in 104 runs. Ruf also led the Eastern League in on-base percentage (.408), slugging percentage (.620) and finished second in batting average (.317). The huge year earned him a September callup with Philadelphia, where he hit .333 with three homers and 10 RBIs in 12 games. Voting results »

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Within the context of Wil Myers' Minor League statistical record, 2011 immediately stands out as the glaring anomaly.

In 2009, he hit .369. In 2010, .315. This year, .314. But in 2011, he hit just .254 in 99 games for Double-A Northwest Arkansas. His on-base percentage from that season ranks 34 points lower than in any of his other three Minor League seasons, and his slugging percentage stands 113 points lower than his next-worst mark.

In April of that year, he tripped running out to his car in the rain. He banged his knee up and it later got infected, requiring minor surgery that caused him to miss a few weeks in May and June. It was a fluky injury, the kind that won't keep you off the field but does just enough to throw you off your game.

An anomalous injury for that kind of season.

"I really think that 2011 was just one of those years where a guy doesn't get off to a good start -- he gets injured. And any time you get hurt and try to get back into the flow of that league, it's just a difficult thing to do," said Scott Sharp, Kansas City's director of Minor League operations. "He really missed a solid five weeks in the middle of a season, and now the pitchers are in midseason form and you're trying to shake off the rust. It's really difficult to do.

"[This year], he really more than anything got back to 2010 form. And then he just made a conscious effort to hit for some power."

It took him, in fact, all of one series to regain that 2010 form and show off that power he would turn into his calling card in 2012.

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In Northwest Arkansas' first three games of the year, at Corpus Christi, Myers went 4-for-12 with a walk and homered in back-to-back games, kick-starting a remarkable one-month stretch that earned him his first promotion to Triple-A.

The 21-year-old quickly cast off any doubts that might have been lingering after the down year he had just battled through. In 35 games with the Naturals, he hit .343, posted a .414 OBP and slugged .731 with 13 homers, 11 doubles and 30 RBIs.

"The only real difference I did this year was stand more upright in my stance," Myers said. "That came a couple of weeks into the season. I was kind of lower in my stance, hitting a lot of line drives, and standing upright helped me have more leverage.

"I wanted to hit more home runs, but I was expecting maybe, like, 20. Luckily, I got more."

Quite a bit more, in fact. Myers,'s No. 3 overall prospect, debuted for Triple-A Omaha on May 17. By the time he took the field to that standing ovation for Team USA in the Futures Game, he'd belted 14 homers -- giving him 27 for the year by early July -- nine doubles and four triples for the Storm Chasers, good for a .636 slugging percentage in his first 48 Pacific Coast League games. He was hitting .315 and had 42 RBIs, and even smacked a grand slam off Roy Oswalt while the former All-Star was rehabbing with Round Rock on June 7.

"[The way he transitioned] was really impressive. He wanted to prove he deserved to get out of [the Texas League], and he did. He got into the Omaha lineup and from Day One was hitting third," said Sharp.

After the All-Star break, Myers ran into the first thing resembling a speed bump he'd seen since 2011. He hit .169 in his first 15 games following the break.

"I struggled after about 40 games [in Triple-A], with the way they were pitching me a little bit," he said. "When I first got there, it was a lot of fastballs and they really adjusted after I played a little while. They were behind me, pitching backwards a lot -- offspeed stuff, sliders early in the count. I had to become patient at the plate and get my pitch."

Like the pitchers he faced, Myers adjusted, going 9-for-16 with four home runs over the final four days of July. Like that, his one tough stretch of 2012 was over. It lasted two weeks.

*  *  *

By the time the 2012 season ended, with Myers' Storm Chasers bowing out in the PCL Championship Series to Reno, the native of High Point, N.C., had ammassed an impressive body of work.

He finished second in all the Minor Leagues in home runs with 37. He drove in 109 RBIs, fourth-most in the Minors. And with a .387 OBP and .600 slugging percentage, he also owned the fourth-best OPS (.987) among anyone to play at Double-A or higher, while being the youngest in that group by more than two years.

His .314 average also essentially duplicated the .315 mark he posted two years ago. In a lot of ways, it was like 2011 never happened at all.

"I'm impressed with somebody that age making the conscious effort to do something and being able to execute the plan. I think that speaks volumes about him," said Sharp.

"[This season] was big. I struggled in 2011 but came back in the fall, had a good Fall League, carried that into the offseason with the workouts and came into Spring Training really confident. Had a good Spring Training and really just rebounded," added Myers.

He won the J.G. Taylor Spink Award as the Topps Minor League Player of the Year, and obviously, was Kansas City's organizational player of the year. He was named the Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year and the USA Today Minor League Player of the Year as well.

And he's our MiLBY Award winner for Best Offensive Player in the Minors.

It's not difficult to see why the fans in Kansas City are so excited.

Jonathan Raymond is a contributor to