Arguably the Padres’ best hitter is eligible to return from the disabled list on August 13th, and when he does, it will be a very interesting time for his team.
Will his manager give him a shot at playing the hot corner?
He has been taking more grounders at the position since hitting the shelf with a bruised foot, and there has been significant speculation as to how legitimate the idea of playing the twenty-seven-year-old at third base really is for the Padres. Andy Green hasn’t said anything serious enough about the idea to realistically think there are very high chances of Myers getting to try out there when he returns.
Yet the intrigue is surely there for the Padres, especially in a year when they’re only winning 39.3 percent of their games, and their current starting third baseman has a 74 wRC+ since the start of May. As a team that is clearly rebuilding and trying out rookies through August and September, there has never been a better time for the Padres to let a guy like Wil Myers play third base.
With a general manager like A.J. Preller at the helm, the team could easily push to try to contend in 2019 with an aggressive offseason. That would make the end of 2018 the Padres’ last good chance to see if Myers could play a new position, such as third base.
If Myers could stick at the position defensively, his value would increase significantly. It would be the most important defensive position he’s played throughout his career in the major leagues, so he could be providing the Padres with a really nice bat at the hot corner. What third basemen could Myers compare to offensively? The results are pretty interesting, and Myers is in good company among players who play the position and produce similarly with the bat to Myers.
Here are the two closest third basemen to Myers by wRC+:
That’s pretty good company to have, in former NL MVP Kris Bryant and star third baseman for the Nationals, Anthony Rendon. Myers hasn’t hit as well as the other two guys throughout his career, but he has hit for more power than them this season, which is impressive. His all-fields approach has been quite useful this season, and he has been much improved in comparison to last season. It’s looking like Myers’ bat is here to stay, and if he plays third base — look out, because his production on offense combined with him playing a more premium defensive position would make him significantly more valuable to the Padres than he is now.
Obviously this is an ambitious undertaking if the Padres decide to let Myers try his hand at the position, so let’s assume that he would be playing slightly below-average defense at third. Myers has certainly improved his defense in left field this season, and has been worth 2.3 runs above average on defense according to Fangraphs. He was worth -4.5 runs in his 2015 work in the outfield for the Padres, so there’s statistical evidence that he’s capable of improving.
Maybe the beginning would be rough with Myers playing third base, because it would be a very new position for him. The work he’s put into improving his defense is evidence that he could become a decent third baseman in the future. The Padres would seem at least somewhat interested in letting him try to improve his defense at the position for the last couple months of the 2018 season.
This is already a guy who has hit exceptionally well for the Padres, and figures to be one of their best hitters for a long time. He is signed through 2023, so the team clearly views him as a centerpiece of the next contending Padres team. With the large number of talented outfielders the Padres have been splitting playing time between, it would allow all of them more playing time if Myers moved to third base. We’re talking about guys like Travis Jankowski, Franchy Cordero, Franmil Reyes, and Hunter Renfroe. Despite all showing flashes of stardom, none of the aforementioned outfielders have really gotten enough everyday at-bats to get fully comfortable in the major leagues.
If the Padres could let Myers try out at the hot corner for a while, it would eliminate the need to play Christian Villanueva and his struggling bat so often. Villanueva would be a very interesting pinch-hitter, especially against lefties, who he hits really well. Maybe Myers would be a disaster at the position, and it would be an experiment that quickly ended. That’s fine if it happens, because the team would simply be exploring whether or not he could play there in a lost season. If the Padres want to get even more out of one of their brightest stars, they should consider the idea of playing Wil Myers at third base.