Wil Myers Could Change Landscape of AL East, Make Huge Offensive Impact for Rays

Wil MyersOdds have been released for the National League Rookie of the Year Award already. St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Shelby Miller was the even-money favorite, followed by Los Angeles Dodgers outfield sensation Yasiel Puig at 3-2. There were no odds released yet on the AL Rookie of the Year winner because no first-year player had totally stood out yet in the Junior Circuit.

However, one candidate may be arriving on the scene, and it could alter the AL East race if he’s as good as advertised. The player in question is Tampa Bay’s Wil Myers, who debuted against the Sox on Tuesday. He was considered the top hitting prospect in the majors last season, and the Rays got him as the big piece from Kansas City in the James Shields trade.

Tampa Bay wanted to delay his arbitration/free agency clock and thus waited this long to call Myers up. Myers, who ranks No. 4 on MLB.com’s list of the top prospects in the game, hit .286 with 14 homers and 57 RBIs at Triple-A Durham. He had gotten hot lately, batting.354 with 10 homers and 32 RBIs in the past 23 games. Last season in the Royals’ system, he hit.314 with 37 home runs and was named Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year. He does still strike out a lot — 71 times in 252 at-bats in 2013.

Look for Myers to start from Day 1 in right field, although Joe Maddon says he will originally bat Myers lower in the lineup to help relieve sky-high expectations. Myers should be a huge upgrade over the likes of Luke Scott (.240, four homers, 23 RBIs), Shelley Duncan (.182) or Sam Fuld (.180). The Rays started the season slow offensively in large part because star Evan Longoria was hurt, but he’s now raking and Tampa Bay is up to No. 4 in the American League in runs, 30 behind No. 1 Boston. Tampa Bay ranks No. 6 in homers with 80.

It’s not too often that a rookie has that much impact on a division race, but if Myers can hit like the Angels’ Mike Trout or the Nationals’ Bryce Harper did in their first seasons in 2012, it obviously makes the Rays a much more formidable competitor in the AL East. Currently Boston is the +190 favorite, followed by the Yankees and Orioles (+300) and Tampa Bay (+400). The last-place Blue Jays remain +700 long shots, although they are starting to play to expectations and shortstop Jose Reyes should return from the disabled list by the end of the month. He has played in only 10 games this year.

Another player the Rays got in the Shields deal from Kansas City was pitcher Jake Odorizzi, and started the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader at Fenway. He has been roughed up so far, allowing 17 hits and 11 earned runs over 12 1/3 innings in three big-league starts. Odorizzi was called back up when Alex Cobb was hit in the head by a line drive and suffered a mild concussion against the Royals on Saturday.

The Rays are coming off a 4-6 homestand, their first losing homestand since last summer. Boston leads the season series 7-2.

This post is presented by Bovada.

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