Baseball America last week named Wil Myers as their Minor League Player of the Year. This award is open to players from every organisation at every level of the minors so to win it is no mean feat. Myers became only the third player from the Kansas City Royals system to ever win the award. Since the Royals are not in contention this year, there have been many suggestions that they should give Myers, who hit .314 with 37 home runs and 109 RBIs in only 134 games at AA and AAA this year, some experience with the big league club this September. The time is not yet right, however.
The first reason is a logistical one. The Royals have another year before Myers is eligible for the Rule Five draft (and thus have to put him on the 40-man roster), so there is no immediate rush to bring him up. The man he would be most likely to replace, Jeff Francoeur also has another year on his contract and the Royals’ outfield is a bit crowded in any case. Not only is there no hurry and little to be gained by calling him up but it is likely that the Royals, knowing that Myers will come up at some point, would rather keep space on the roster for the players they have to protect and see how close or otherwise those players are to being big league ready. Those other players may be better trade value next season if they have shown what they can do in September. There is also the fact that the sooner Myers gets to the big league level the sooner he is eligible for free agency. The Royals will be in no rush to see that happen.
The obvious counter to the above is that logistical points should not get in the way of what is best for the team or player. And of course that’s true, but in fact it is better for the Royals and Myers to give him more time at AAA. Bear in mind that despite his great numbers this is the first time he has played at AAA. Lots of players fall off a bit in their second season at a new level and Myers only had 99 games with the Storm Chasers this year. There is no indication yet that Myers has reached the point where he can no longer benefit from being at AAA. He also has a chance to win a title with Omaha. This is not something at which to be sniffed; Ned Yost has talked about needing to generate a culture of winning in Kansas City and there is little better way to do that then by having players who have not only won in the past, but whose experience has taught them to actually expect to win games and championships on a regular basis.
Most importantly though, this is where the Royals have to heed the lessons of their other young players. Alex Gordon was called up to the big league club in 2007 after just one year in the minor leagues. It took him until 2011 to establish himself as an everyday player and he bounced back and forth between Omaha and Kansas City several times. The same thing happened to Billy Butler and Zack Greinke. All three got through it, but it took years and they did not help themselves or the club by being in the big leagues before they were ready. Contrast this to Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. Both had years in the minors to develop and both knew that once they came up they would stay up. Hosmer responded with a brilliant rookie year and now a slight slump in his second, but has never looked like being sent down. Moustakas has quickly turned into an excellent hitter and probably the best defensive third baseman in the league. The lesson is clear: let the young players develop fully at AAA before calling them up.
Bandon Decker is also on Twitter, for those who want to see his real-time thoughts on the Royals and other teams