Myers adjusting behind, at the plate

Royals prospect finding plenty to work on in first full season

Wil Myers had a four-game hitting streak but struck out nine times. (Bill Mitchell/Four Seam Images)

By Matthew Lindner / Special to | April 13, 2010 3:18 PM ET

GENEVA, Ill. -- At this time last year, behind the plate was about the last place you'd expect to find Wil Myers.

The sweet-swinging slugger was starring as a pitcher/shortstop for Wesleyan Christian Academy in North Carolina when he got the call from the Royals that he'd been drafted in the third round -- as a catcher.

Wait, what?

"I love catching," Myers said. "You're involved in the game the whole time. It's a lot better than being out in the field because you're involved in every single play. It's just fun being out there."

Myers is having plenty of fun in his first full professional season at Class A Burlington, even if he never saw himself as the catcher-of-the-future entering the Draft. He hit safely in four of his first five games, a run that ended Tuesday. A top-tier prospect, some scouts have him penciled in as the Royals' Opening Day catcher as early as 2013.

Some high Draft picks might take a negative attitude to such a drastic change in position, especially after starring in the role being left behind. But Myers said he's viewing his latest challenge as merely a shortcut to a destination just 300 miles from Burlington's Community Field.

"I look at it as a competition to make it to the big leagues faster," he explained. "They're kind of weak at catching and, hopefully, I can make my way up."

While Burlington Bees manager Jim Gabella counts himself among Myers' biggest fans, he's preaching patience when it comes to the organization's top catching prospect.

"Being in a new position is tough, especially at catcher, where you've got to control the pitching staff and you've got to call the game," Gabella said. "There are so many demanding things at that position that, for a young kid just learning it, he's done an outstanding job."

Some prospects might feel the weight of expectations on their shoulders. After all, the Royals haven't been in the playoffs in years and are looking for a hitter who will bring back memories of another former Kansas City catching prospect, Dale Murphy.

Myers said he lets others deal with the hype. Right now, his focus is on what happens between the lines and not in the blogosphere.

"There's no pressure out here," he said. "You just go out and play every day."

Coaches worked with Myers in the instructional league last fall and at Spring Training, helping him get acclimated to a position he'd never played before. While those first days behind the plate were round, he's already come a long way, Gabella said.

"I can't tell you how well he's done, just from the first time I saw him in Spring Training. The drills he was going through, from then until now, it's remarkable how well he's done," the manager added.

Myers easily could take credit for all that progress. Ask him what got him to where he is today, however, and he's quick to point out how lucky he feels to have landed with Kansas City.

"The Royals are a great organization," he said. "They've got great coaches, they've got a great development system."

While he's come a long way defensively as a pro, his offense hasn't progressed at the same pace. Despite the four-game streak, Myers was hitting .166 with nine strikeouts through one week in the Midwest League. Scuffling is something he's not used to, having dominated opposing pitchers in high school. Gabella said that while he may not be used to struggling at the plate, he's handling the early slump well.

"Will's never failed in his life, baseball-wise, offensively," Gabella continued. "He's done an outstanding job, he's handled it like a professional, like a Major League player. Where he strikes out, he comes in and he learns from that mistake. He understands that there are going to be some difficulties in the game, and for an 18-year-old that's pretty impressive."

Myers said he knows he's going to have to go through an adjustment period because the pitchers he's facing aren't the same guys against whom he hit better than .500 in high school. The biggest thing he needs to get used to is the fact that professional pitchers aren't just going to throw the ball up there for him to hit.

"The quality of pitches, they know where they're throwing it," Myers said. "In high school, their off-speed was usually down the middle and you could take advantage of that, but here they can work you in and out. Everybody's good out here."

And while Myers may be struggling at the plate now, Gabella thinks his catcher has the tools, mentally and physically, to make a one-way trip to Kauffman Stadium one day.

"He still has a long way to go, but if he keeps improving the way he has the past couple months, he's going to be a big leaguer," the manager said.

Matthew Lindner is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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