Wil Myers ’ streaky tendencies lent themselves to basically two outcomes for the 2020 season.
He’s hot for the majority of the year and has an excellent campaign.
It’s a cold stretch for the majority of the year and he has a disappointing campaign.
Well, it certainly was not the latter. Myers was a monster at the plate in the 2020 season. He hit .288 with a career-best .606 slugging percentage, 15 home runs, 40 RBI, and two stolen bases. When you look at some of his rolling breakdowns, notably his expected batting average, it remained well above league average, and honestly, even his valleys in the 2020 season were just slightly below the peaks.
Myers posted a career-best 14.8 percent barrel rate, and his exit velocity at 91 miles per hour was a career best and clocked in at the 82nd percentile. His increased barrel rate was perpetuated by Myers’ ability to square up breaking pitchers with great frequency in 2020.
Is that sustainable? Likely not, but it’s damn impressive, just like this graph below.
Sure, there were dips there against fastballs and off-speed pitches, but my goodness. Myers still hit fastballs well, but with him clobbering breaking pitches in 2020, Myers was near impossible to pitch to this past year. One last thing regarding his Statcast profiles; Myers was one of just eight players in 2020 to rank in the 80th percentile or higher in each of the following: barrel rate, exit velocity, hard hit rate, and sprint speed.
Courtesy of Baseball Savant
After 2019’s horrid 34.3 percent strikeout rate, the mark returned to a far more normal 25.7 percent, which is right on par with years prior. For the record, his career mark is 26.6 percent. His contact rate got back above 70 percent after being just 68.9 percent in 2019, and he shaved about three percentage points off his swinging strike rate. While he did chase less, and his 25.8 percent mark in 2020 was his lowest since 2015, the big key for Myers was actually in the strike zone. His zone contact jumped for a career-low 77.6 percent in 2019, back to 85.2 percent in 2020, which is his best mark since 2016.
Take a look here at Myers’ improvements on pitches in the strike zone, in terms of whiffs:
This coincides with Myers absolutely crushing breaking pitches. He whiffed less on them, and generated tons of hard contact. You love to see that. After a few years of an increasing rate, it was encouraging to see fewer whiffs on off-speed pitches following the 2019 mark. Now, the improvements he made resulted in a whiff rate that was still below league average (49th percentile), but it was far better than his 12th percentile ranking in 2019, and marks his best placement since he came in at the 54th percentile back in 2016.
All of the positives are certainly fun and eye-catching, but Myers has to be one of the most obvious regression candidates in 2021. It’s tough to follow up a year full of career bests, and we’ve seen Myers enjoy nice peaks and tough valleys throughout his career. He makes solid contact which certainly helps, but his propensity to strikeout pulls down that batting average. Also, when you look at his xBA rankings in recent years, it’s been a wild roller coaster…
Myers needs to run in 2021 to reward fantasy owners, because that .288 batting average is coming back down to Earth and I don’t envision Myers repeating his 13.2 AB/HR mark from 2020. San Diego loves to run, so there’s optimism that Myers will get back into double-digits in 2021.
Myers is going to cost you a ninth or tenth round pick in 15-team setups, per NFBC data, right alongside his teammate Tommy Pham . His batting average is going to take a hit, but he’s a guy that should post a home run total in the low-to-mid 20’s and somewhere around 15 stolen bases, give or take a few. If he stays healthy, he should have plenty of RBI opportunities with a talented San Diego lineup, and even though he is horrible defensively, his bat will keep him in the lineup.
While there’s some regression to be had, there are not many 25 home run guys who also steal 10-15 bases outside of the top 100 or so picks.
BONUS AUDIO: Jen Piacenti talks Wil Myers' swing