After living up to hype, Myers could be AL ROY
Rays outfielder posted big numbers despite not making his debut until June
ST. PETERSBURG -- The "Next Great Thing" showed up midway through the Rays' season in the form of Wil Myers, and somehow, the rookie outfielder managed to live up to his lofty expectations.
Myers' showing is why the native of North Carolina is the heavy favorite to take home the Jackie Robinson Award voted on by the Baseball Writers' Association of America to honor the top rookies in the American League and National League. The Rookie of the Year Awards will be announced on Monday (watch at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network).
A man of few words, Myers sounded humble after the news broke that he was one of the final three players up for the award.
"It's just a huge honor to be considered for an award like this," Myers said. "... Just to be in the top three finalists for this award is just a huge honor and I'm excited to be a part of it."
Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman had little issue touting Myers.
"I think that Wil steps right into the middle of the order of a playoff-contending team and really hit the ground running," Friedman said. "I think there was a point in the season where he'd been up for like 60 games and it felt like it had been a year and a half. He'd just been in the middle of so many things and a big part of the success that we enjoyed this year."
Despite not joining Tampa Bay until its 70th game on June 18, Myers led AL rookies with 53 RBIs in the 88 games he played. The last player to lead AL rookies in RBIs in fewer than 90 games was Detroit's Hoot Evers in 1946, when he had 33 in 81 games.
Myers also hit .293 with 13 home runs, which helped lead the Rays to their fourth playoff appearance in six years. Tampa Bay was three games over .500 when he arrived (36-33). After Myers' arrival, the team had an 18 games over .500 (56-38) finish.
Myers came to the Rays on Dec. 9 as the marquee player received in the trade that sent James Shields to the Royals.
The rookie captured the imagination of Tampa Bay fans with his big swing, the fact he didn't wear batting gloves and the perception he was not affected by pressure. Rays outfielder David DeJesus noted that Myers' outward appearance can be misleading.
"He's the type of guy, people have a misconception about him, like he's no batting gloves and whatever," DeJesus said. "That couldn't be farther from the truth. He's a competitor. He wants to win at everything. He has a passion for baseball that's great to see at the young age he's at. And I feel the sky's the limit for him. He just has to keep on working."
Myers, 22, has already been named the AL's top rookie by the Sporting News and by his fellow players through the Players Choice Awards.
At the end of the season, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon called Myers' rookie campaign "very impressive."
"To come in as he did," Maddon said, "and he made a huge difference for us when he showed up. He did struggle a little bit in the playoffs; however, don't forget what he did to get us to this particular moment."
Maddon said Myers has prodigious power.
"He hits the ball as far as anybody in baseball right now," Maddon said. "To all fields. He hits for average, too. Good baserunner and he runs well -- better than I thought -- too. Defensively we've got to help him a little bit. I thought he showed signs of being at least a solid outfielder. I think with technique, he'll develop. We'll work with him in Spring Training.
"Makeup wise, he definitely has a big league makeup. I talked a lot about him not being overwhelmed. He should be Rookie of the Year. There's no question in my mind. ... This guy is going to be a big part of our future."
Teammate Chris Archer is also one of the three candidates for the AL Rookie of the Year Award, along with Detroit shortstop Jose Iglesias. Archer believes Myers should be the winner.
"I really feel like Wil's going to take the award home, and he deserves that," Archer said.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.