MLB Tampa Bay Rays

Wil Myers Could Create Logjam In Tampa Bay Rays Lineup Sooner Than Expected

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When the Tampa Bay Rays acquired 22-year old Wil Myers in the deal that sent James Shields over to the Kansas City Royals, the plan was likely to have him start in AAA, and see if he could do enough to force the team’s hand to call him up in the summer.

After the his first few Spring Training games, however, that timetable may be accelerated.

Not that the Rays will commit to anything after just three outings from the can’t-miss prospect, of course. Still, the results have been impressive: Myers has been on base in all three games he has played in, and is 3-for-6 in his last two games.

At a time when most players are coming in to work on individual elements of the game to get geared up for the season, the newcomer Myers has come to camp in advanced form, and that hasn’t been lost on the Rays’ head brass, according to ESPN’s Jayson Stark.

“The first impression has been very strong,” says Andrew Friedman, the team’s executive VP of baseball operations. That was before Myers and the Rays played against the Houston Astros on Tuesday, and his 2-for-3 day that also included his first double likely made that impression stronger.

But, will it be enough to get him to break camp with the team?

Well, Friedman is “confident” that the league’s top hitting prospect “will help [the Rays] win games in 2013.” That’s as clear a proclamation that Rays fans will get to suggest that that the top hitting prospect in the game will arrive in 2013, but the idea of him starting on Opening Day seems unlikely for now, given that the Rays’ outfield is set, and starting the 22-year old’s service clock in the majors early is not exactly in line with the team’s M.O.

Barring necessity, the service time saved will likely be a major factor to when Myers will be unleashed in the bigs, even if that’s by no means set in stone.

One other thing to consider is that when the team does bring him up – and it could be as early as June, assuming that he smashes AAA as expected – the Rays won’t have him up as a bench player.

That mean the team will have until then to make room for every day playing time for the rookie. With Matt Joyce and Ben Zobrist entrenched at the corner outfields, the potential permutations of the already hard-to-predict Rays lineup could become overwhelming.

Does Zobrist take playing time away from James Loney? Could Luke Scott‘s DH spot become a position of flux? How will the Matt Joyce platoon continue with up to four second baseman in play?

Whatever it is, it will not be an easy decision; but if Myers continues his pace in Spring Training, it’ll be one that manager Joe Maddon will have to make very soon.