Baseball America announced its annual minor league player of the year today and the winner is Royals prospect Wil Myers, who hit .314 with 37 homers in 134 games between Double-A and Triple-A at age 21.
J.J. Cooper’s lengthy article about Myers includes this interesting tidbit: He joins Paul Konerko, Troy Glaus, Jose Canseco, and Mike Moustakas as the only minor leaguers in the past 40 years to hit at least 35 homers in a season above Single-A before their 22nd birthday.
Myers came into this season as a top prospect, ranking 28th on Baseball America‘s annual list, but his power was in question after totaling just 27 homers in his first 247 games as a pro. His newfound power came with a big increase in strikeouts, but Myers still managed to hit .317 despite being very young for the levels of competition and the catcher-turned-outfielder will likely enter next season as arguably the best hitting prospect in baseball.
He also joins some pretty great company as Baseball America‘s minor league player of the year. Mike Trout won the award last season and the five winners before that were Jeremy Hellickson, Jason Heyward, Matt Wieters, Jay Bruce, and Alex Gordon.
The Angels’ bench is looking woefully thin this winter — so thin, in fact, that manager Mike Scioscia says he’s considering utilizing starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner on the days he’s not scheduled to pitch.
I’ve never had a pitcher pinch-run,” Scioscia told reporters Saturday. “There’s more bad than good that can come out of it. But Shohei is not just a pitcher. He’s a guy that has the ability to do some of the things coming off the bench, whether it’s pinch-hit or pinch-run, and we’re definitely going to tap into that if it’s necessary, because we feel we’re not putting him at risk. It’s something he’s able to do.
Granted, spring training allows for a certain amount of experimentation before managers and players decide what works best for them, so this may not be the strategy the Angels employ for the entire season. In addition to coming off the bench between starts, Ohtani is also expected to see 2-3 days at DH every week, forcing Albert Pujols to shift over to first base to accommodate the new two-way star.
Ohtani’s hitting prowess has already been well-documented — he has a lifetime .286/.358/.500 batting line from NPB and crushed a batting practice home run during his initial workouts with the team this week — but his skills on the basepaths have received less attention so far. MLB Pipeline describes the 23-year-old phenom as a “well-above average runner” whose speed has yet to manifest stolen bases: he’s nabbed just 13 bases in 17 chances over the last five years. That’s a number Scioscia hopes to see increased this season, though he doesn’t want his ace pitcher making any head-first slides on the basepaths to do so.
To be sure, it’s an unorthodox role for any young player to step into, but if anyone can pull it off, Ohtani can.