Don’t forget that Wil Myers can play third base


Pending an injury or a drastic change of heart, Wil Myers will be the San Diego Padres’ starting centerfielder on Opening Day. If his hitting resembles his 2013 Rookie-of-the-Year effort more closely than his disastrous performance from last season, then we would expect Myers to start 120 games in center for San Diego and quite possibly more. That is probably a correct assumption, but the Padres may be better off following an alternate path.

The title of this piece gives away a fact that not too many people are aware of: Wil Myers has the ability to be a perfectly fine third baseman. He never appeared there a single time with the Rays thanks to the presence of a healthy Evan Longoria, but just before he left the Kansas City Royals organization, he started playing there and evaluators liked what they saw.

"He also played 13 games at third base for Omaha, making three errors but showing enough arm and athleticism for the hot corner."

Why should it be important to the San Diego Padres that Wil Myers can play third base? The reasoning is simple: the way that the Padres are currently constructed, they have something to gain by having Myers available at third base in addition to the outfield.

We are all familiar with Myers’ ex-teammate Ben Zobrist. Zobrist began last season as the Tampa Bay Rays’ primary second baseman, but after injuries to Myers and Yunel Escobar, Zobrist saw more time in the outfield and at shortstop and it didn’t affect him at all. Even better for Zobrist is that he is a plus defender at second base and the corner outfield spots while also being a solid shortstop.

Of course, Wil Myers is no Ben Zobrist. He was an average right fielder at best the last two years, and it will be interesting to see how he handles centerfield. It is quite apparent that Myers will be in center not because of his ability but because Matt Kemp is a horrific defender there and Justin Upton has never played center in his big league career.

If Myers can play anywhere near an average third base, though, that would give the Padres a lot more flexibility. Currently lined up to man the hot corner for the Padres is Will Middlebrooks, and while he has talent, he certainly comes with his questions. His fractured index finger can’t explain all of his struggles in 2014 for both the Boston Red Sox and Triple-A Pawtucket.

Even if we want to dismiss Middlebrooks’ 2014 as bad luck, he has always been a poor defender at third according to UZR and a terrible one per DRS. Add in struggles against right-handed pitching and his injury history, and there is a real chance that Middlebrooks will need to be replaced at some point next season. Myers could be the Padres’ best option to do so on at least a part-time basis.

Myers is going to be far from a Gold Glover in centerfield, and the Padres still have Cameron Maybin and Will Venable as two options that could be better than him defensively. A trade may in the wings, but as long as one of them remains with the team, the Padres have a clear opportunity for the type of multi-position platoon that Zobrist was able to facilitate in Tampa Bay.

Middlebrooks and Yangervis Solarte are both stronger against left-handed pitching while Maybin and Venable are better against righties. If Myers can play a decent enough third base, it could make sense for them to play him at third against righties and in center against lefties. That would allow the Padres to maximize their offensive and defensive production at both positions on a nightly basis.

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Another player we should mention is Yonder Alonso, the Padres’ first baseman. Alonso has always been an unimpressive starter at first and was especially poor at the plate last season. It may be worthwhile to platoon him against left-handed pitching at the very least, and having Myers as an option to play third base would make that a little bit easier. Myers also got experience at first last year and could slide there if needed.

One more reason for Myers to get experience at third is the scenario that no one with the Padres wants to talk about–that Myers continues struggling at the plate. If pitchers are able to continue exploiting Myers’ issues with breaking pitches, it would make a lot of sense for him to see time at other positions to try to provide value to the team nonetheless.

Obviously the San Diego Padres want none of these things to happen. They are hoping that Wil Myers can be a strong offensive centerfielder who also delivers solid defense while Will Middlebrooks and Yonder Alonso form a solid corner-infielder tandem. However, with an opportunity for Myers to play third likely to arise at some point, what do the Padres have to lose playing him at the position in spring training and seeing if he can be ready in case the time comes?

Wil Myers is predominantly a centerfielder now, but it makes sense for the Padres to see if he can help them at third base as well. The team is enthralled enough with his potential at the plate, and if he can add versatility to his resume, he will only increase his contribution to their team even more.