In June, if you’d have told me that I’d be writing a piece gushing praise towards D’Arby Myers and proclaiming him “the next big thing”, I’d have laughed you right out of the room. As I expressed in previous entries here, I am ALWAYS skeptical of guys the Phillies draft as “athletes who need to learn to play baseball”, and at first blush, that’s exactly what D’Arby Myers seemed to me. Now, here I am, 7 months later, getting ready to write what will probably look like the biggest puff piece I’ve ever written. It’s funny how one guy can make you forget about years and years of mistakes, even if that suspended cynicism could rear it’s ugly head at some point down the road. But, as I clarified before, we’re all just projecting and guessing, so why not hold out a little hope for now?
For those who don’t know him, Myers was drafted out of high school in the 4th round and signed three weeks after the draft. He certainly fit the mold the Phillies look for in high school athletes, he’s already 6’3, 175 lbs, wiry strong, and looks like the perfect projection guy to add 30 pounds and an inch or two and turn into a physical specimen. He’s a superior athlete, having played baseball, football, basketball and even hockey in high school, but he ended up always coming back to baseball. Myers was recruited and signed a letter of intent to USC, based partly on his really strong academic background (4.0 GPA) and his good high school performance, where he hit over .460 in both his junior and senior years. Because of his academic prowess as well as his baseball abilities, the scholarship to Southern California was seen as an obstacle by many teams, and he slid to the 4th round. In what would become a trend in the Phillies 2006 draft, they took a shot, and surprisingly, got Myers signed in only 3 weeks, which has to be seen as somewhat of a coup.
Before we go on about Myers and everything he offers, we need to address why I called him “the Phillies winning lottery ticket” in the title of this article. Guys like Myers, that is, the raw high school athlete, fail much more in pro ball than they succeed. Every year, every team drafts a bunch of guys like Myers, guys they think COULD become the next big thing, but the reality is, many of them don’t, simply because playing the game of baseball, and more specifically, teaching the nuances of the game of baseball, is not an easy task, and in most cases, just being a good athlete isn’t enough. In the Phillies case, their record of drafting guys like Myers is simply awful. Reggie Taylor and Greg Golson immediately come to mind, but there have been others (Shomari Beverley in 1997….who? Exactly) and in general, the Phillies just haven’t had any luck developing high school hitters. In fact, since the 1996 draft, the only high school hitter I can even think of that the Phillies have really succeeded with is Jimmy Rollins. One success in 10 years is hardly a solid track record. But, with Adrian Cardenas and D’Arby Myers, the Phillies might be onto something…..or they may have just gotten lucky, hence the “lottery ticket” analogy.
Just one more point on this, then I swear I’m going to start talking directly about Myers. Most teams draft guys like Myers and they never pan out, it’s not unique to the Phillies, but I know I’m not alone in wondering why it seems these guys show up in the GCL and seemingly can’t hit at all. Or, why we hear in the media that Greg Golson, with 2.5 years of pro ball experience, still has an “aluminum bat swing”, which to me, seems inexcusable. Some teams live and die by their farm system because they have to, teams like Minnesota and Oakland, but could it also be that these teams just have better teachers and instructors? Is it really a surprise that Minnesota churns out so much quality pitching? Many of the guys they bring up were not heralded as super stud prospects when they were drafted, but it seems like the teachers in the lower levels of the Minnesota system bring out the best in these prospects…..can we say the same about the Phillies? I’m not sure we can. That’s why a guy like Myers is so surprising to me, but at the same time, gives me hope that the Phillies might just be getting it.
Anyway, back to D’Arby. The fact that he signed so quickly was a surprise, but it also helped him, as it gave him more time to get adjusted to life in pro ball. Having not turned 18 until December, Myers played the entire GCL season at age 17, making him one of the youngest players in the league. So, we have a really young, really raw guy playing pro ball the summer after his senior year in high school….we shouldn’t expect too much, right? Well, most didn’t, and that’s why we’re so surprised. Myers final line was impressive
.313/.353/.430, 10 XBH, 13 RBI, 11/15 SB
The only area you could be somewhat concerned with is his 32 K’s in 128 AB’s, but all things considered, this is almost a zero worry type deal. What’s more impressive, though are his splits
June: .154/.267/.154 in 13 AB
July: .344/.382/.484 in 64 AB
August: .364/.364/.500 in 44 AB
He actually seemed to get stronger as the season was winding down. Maybe the most promising split is his ground ball to fly ball ratio. He had 49 GB to only 25 FB. He knows his strength, at this point, is to utilize his speed, and the best way to do that is to hit the ball on the ground.
The bigger issue, though, when looking at his numbers is his age….17. After the 2005 season, Yankees prospect Jose Tabata was considered one of the 50 or so best prospects in baseball, based on his GCL performance and his age, also 17 years old. In 2006, in low A, Tabata put up a .298/.377/.420 line, and was ranked the Yankees second best prospect, and will probably get some consideration for the Top 25 prospects in baseball lists. Here is a quick comparison of their respective numbers for their GCL seasons, both coming at age 17
Tabata: .314/.382/.417, 9 XBH, 25 RBI, 22/28 in SB in 156 AB
Myers: .313/.353/.430, 10 XBH, 13 RBI, 11/15 in SB in 128 AB
Pretty similar, yes? But there is one big different. Tabata is 5’10, 165 lbs, while Myers is 6’3, 175 lbs. What’s the difference? As Tabata gets older, he’s unlikely to grow more than a few more inches. Many scouts see his speed diminishing slightly as he fills out his frame and adds weight. He may develop more power, but Myers is a better bet to retain his speed, and because of it, has a better chance to remain a CF, while Tabata will likely be relegated to RF, because he does have a strong arm, but will lack the speed for CF. Tabata also has a slight edge in his plate discipline, drawing 15 walks to only 14 K’s his rookie year, while Myers drew only 7 walks to 32 strikeouts. Again, though, Myers is still learning the nuances like controlling the strike-zone, whereas Tabata was already an advanced hitter prior to coming to the GCL.
So, in the short term and in the long run, what are we looking at? We could be looking at the makings of a super star, or we could be looking at the next Reggie Taylor. Lets look at Myers’ numbers compared to Reggie Taylor and Greg Golson, the two suspects mentioned earlier.
Myers, age 17 (GCL): .313/.353/.430, 10 XBH, 13 RBI, 11/15 in SB in 128 AB
Taylor, age 18 (SS): .222/.301/.314, 12 XBH, 32 RBI, 18/25 in SB in 239 AB
Golson, age 18 (GCL): .295/.345/.410, 14 XBH, 22 RBI, 12/14 in SB in 183 AB
Now, lets look at the second year for both Taylor and Golson
Taylor, age 19 (A-): .263/.305/.327, 26 XBH, 31 RBI, 36/53 in SB in 499 AB
Golson, age 19 (A-): .264/.322/.389, 31 XBH, 27 RBI, 25/34 in SB in 375 AB
At this point in time, it looks like the Phillies could challenge Myers to a full season at Lakewood. The original plans were probably to keep him in short season ball in 2007 to help him get acclimated to pro ball, but with his outstanding showing in the GCL, the temptation to move him up and skip Williamsport is no doubt strong, and based on his baseball aptitude, might not be a bad move. Back in the summer, I advocated that he should probably start at Williamsport and then get bumped to Lakewood for the last month or so, but knowing what I know now, looking at the situation more closely, challenging him to a full season might just be the right idea. If he can put up a .375 OB% at Lakewood and increase his walk rate a bit, 2007 will be a major success, not even considering other parts of his game. In the next 2-3 years, his power should increase as he adds muscle and fills out, so that part of his game will come. The most important aspect for his future success is learning the strike zone and how to approach each at bat. If he can learn those skills, he’ll remain on the fast track.
Long term for D’Arby? Well, as cliche as it sounds, the sky is the limit. He has above average speed, an above average bat, plays a decent CF at such an early stage, and shows signs that he could hit for power. He basically has everything you look for in a star player. But of course, the warning has to be attached to this. He may not develop at all, and he may turn into the next Reggie Taylor. Every prospect has that chance, and Myers, as promising as he was in 2006, has the same possibility of failure as anyone else. It’s going to be exciting watching him develop, and at this time next year, everyone might be gushing over “the Great D’Arby Myers”…we can only hope.