Wil Myers took home American League Rookie of the Year honors Monday evening, receiving 23 of the 30 possible first-place votes allotted to the baseball writers, along with 130 total points en route to becoming the third Tampa Bay Rays rookie to win the accolade in the past six seasons (Evan Longoria, 2008; Jeremy Hellickson, 2011).
Promoted to the Show on June 16 after 64 productive games with triple-A Durham (.286/.356/.520, 14 HR), the 22-year-old proceeded to post an AL rookie-best .831 OPS over 88 contests with the big league roster, helping Tampa Bay secure its playoff berth before being bounced by the Red Sox 4-1 in the divisional round of the postseason.
Flashing his power consistently while showing he can be at least a serviceable corner glove in the future, the former third-round draft pick in the 2009 draft gave the Rays many reasons to believe he can be the difference-making corner bat their scouts saw when they acquired him from Kansas City in 2012. But there was a flaw to Myers' game that stands out in particular from his first stint in the big leagues: His plate discipline regressions when behind in the count.
Myers' Swing Rate in Hitters Counts, 2013
Myers' Swing Rate in Pitchers Counts, 2013
Truth be told, Myers was one of baseball's better 'ahead in the count' hitters last season. Among qualifying right-handed batters, his .502 weighted on-base average beat out Buster Posey (.499) and Matt Holliday (.496), among others, and was well-above the .466 league-average mark. He offered at non-strikes less than a quarter of the time (21.6% chase rate), which was also below league average (23.2%). This enabled him to put quality contact on pitches at a high frequency -- accumulating a well-hit average of .429 that was only slightly behind that of Mike Trout (.439) in hitters' counts.
Those successess vanished in pitchers' counts, however. Myers' .232 wOBA in non-hitters counts was below league average (.236) and his plate discipline -- if you had not already noticed from the charts above -- became an obvious weakness (31.4% chase rate) rather than a strength, as we saw when he was ahead in the count. And while he did swing at fewer non-strikes than the 36.4% league average in pitchers counts, those plate discipline regressions were enough to decrease his well-hit average severely (.160 WHAV in non-hitters counts compared to .429 in hitters counts).
Myers has proved that when he gets ahead of pitchers in the count, he makes them pay through a relatively selective approach (for a rookie) and subsequent ability to hammer the baseball with the likes of some of the best (i.e. Trout) in the game. If he wants to take the next step and develop into a perennial All-Star, however, he must learn to minimize his propensity to offer a non-strikes when behind in the count, as this has led to a significant decease in his ability to hit pitches with authority.
Once he shows an ability to cut down on his unwise tendencies in pitchers' counts, he will be better equipped to work ahead in the count and mash any mistake thrown in his above-the-belt sweet spot.