Myers runs away with AL Rookie of the Year Award
Slugger becomes third Rays player in past six years to win; Archer finishes third
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The pressure was on Wil Myers from his first day with the Rays, maybe even before that.
Tampa Bay parted ways with James Shields, an ace and staff leader, to acquire Myers last offseason. Fellow top prospect Chris Archer publicly anointed Myers "the future" the day they met. Even Triple-A Durham named a section of its ballpark after him: WilVille.
Myers insists he never felt any of it. The only pressure he faced, he said, was the pressure to win in the big leagues.
Whether they were on his mind or not, the 22-year-old slugger lived up to the enormous expectations, and he officially capped his impressive debut Monday night by winning the American League Rookie of the Year Award.
2013 ROOKIES OF THE YEAR
"I'm not really surprised, honestly," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "You look at the body of work that Wil provided from the time he was up there, the expectations he had on him when he arrived and how he fulfilled those expectations and just the level that he played at. ... Overall, you look at his entire body of work and what he meant to us in regards to wins and losses, he was pretty important."
Myers received 131 points, and 23 of 30 first-place votes, to finish ahead of Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias (80 points) and Archer (35 points, one first-place vote) in the Baseball Writers' Association of America voting. Myers is Tampa Bay's third AL Rookie of the Year in the past six years, joining Evan Longoria (2008) and Jeremy Hellickson ('11). Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, a product of Tampa's Alonso High School, took home National League Rookie of the Year Award honors.
This is Myers' third award this offseason, as he was previously named the AL's top rookie by the Sporting News and in the Players Choice Awards.
"I feel like any player has awards in the back of their mind, and obviously being a rookie, you think Rookie of the Year," Myers said. "But I honestly just wanted to go out every single day and help my team win. That's the biggest thing -- helping the team win and getting to the playoffs."
Acquired last winter from the Royals along with three other prospects in exchange for Shields and Wade Davis, Myers became the first player to lead AL rookies in RBIs in fewer than 90 games since Detroit's Hoot Evers did so in 1946. He also paced AL rookies in doubles (23), extra-base hits (36) and OPS (.831), recording an overall batting line of .293/.354/.478 with 13 homers and 53 RBIs.
Myers is the first position player in AL history to win Rookie of the Year with fewer than 100 games played and the second in Major League history, joining Ryan Howard (2005 NL), who also played in 88 games.
The Rays were 36-33 on June 16 after losing to Davis and the Royals. Later that evening, they announced that Myers would be called up from Durham for a doubleheader at Fenway Park two days later. Myers quickly became a regular presence in the heart of Tampa Bay's order, and the Rays went 56-38 after his arrival.
"I thought I did well. I was able to go out and help the team," Myers said. "I thought I was put in some pretty big spots as a rookie. As far as my season went, there's a lot of things that can improve, but I thought I did pretty well for my first year."
Myers captured Rays' fans attention long before he stepped foot in the batter's box, as he seemed destined to spend the next seven years alongside Longoria in the middle of the lineup. Tampa Bay hadn't had a prospect with so much promise as a hitter since Longoria, in fact. Fans wanted Myers on the Opening Day roster, and every time a hitter slumped in the Majors, they called for Myers to replace him.
When the consensus 2012 Minor League Player of the Year finally arrived, Myers won over Rays fans with his powerful barehanded swings, his brazenly unkempt hair and the amusing brand of youthful swagger that may be best represented by his pronounced bat flips.
"We've had a lot of players like that in the recent past where there's been a lot of expectations," Maddon said, mentioning Longoria and David Price by name. "It's part of the territory and the program, and they're willing to accept it. ... He's confident. He's very confident in his abilities, and then beyond that, he knows that there's a way that he's got to go about this and he's got to carry on in a certain method, because a lot is expected of him.
"But he knows he can deal with it. He knows enough to handle those expectations, but I think it's been nurtured over time with him and with some of the other guys we've had in the recent past."
Myers had some tough competition in Iglesias and Archer. Archer went 9-7 with a 3.22 ERA over 23 starts in 2013. Among AL rookies, the 25-year-old right-hander ranked first in ERA, opponents' average (.226), complete games (two), shutouts (two), hits allowed per nine innings (7.5) and WHIP (1.13).
"I'm happy for [Myers] to get that recognition," Archer said. "To be honest, I was just happy to be nominated. I knew I wasn't going to win."
It may have seemed like a sure thing, but it would be historical revisionism to say Myers simply breezed through his first year in The Show. He went through possibly the worst extended slump of his career early on in Triple-A, and it'd be generous to call his first trip to the postseason a learning experience. Myers made a memorable misplay in right field at Fenway Park and recorded just one hit in the AL Division Series.
That difficult series was "not one of those things you're going to forget," Myers said. So he'll work on his defense, particularly his route-running. He'll focus on keeping a consistent strike zone and learn how to make mechanical adjustments on the fly when his swing feels out of whack.
The Rays, meanwhile, can zero in on those issues this spring, Maddon said, by setting up a "nice little work plan for him." Maddon believes that kind of gradual improvement could lead to more awards in Myers' future, that his early success and his distaste for failure will motivate him to perform better in the coming years.
Perhaps, then, Monday night was simply a starting point for Myers, the first major award in a career that could include many more.
"I hope so. I definitely want to go out and try to be one of the best players in the game," Myers said. "Obviously, winning this award gives me some confidence going into next year, so I'm going to work hard this offseason, work on the things that I need to work on and get ready for next year."