The Wil Myers story (part 2) The draft leads to the Tools of Ignorance
(Top Photo Minda Haas)
When Wil Myers was drafted in the 3rd round by the Royals the organization had to be ecstatic. After all, several in the front office wanted to take him with their first round pick. But, the baseball Gods shined on Kansas City for once and now they just needed to sign him.
This is how KC landed Wil as told by the Royals Director of Scouting Lonnie Goldberg:
â€œOur area scout Steve Connelly (now a Pro Scout for Toronto) did a helluva job here. He developed a great relationship with Wil and his family. I remember Wil was at the East Coast Showcase in August of his draft year where we saw him catch and hit a home run. We started following him and watched him play for the Dirtbags in Jupiter (Perfect Game Showcase Tournament)Â Junior Vizcaino (now the National Cross Checker for KC) and I saw him early in the season and he caught and also hit 3 home runs. The other team actually pitched to him which was rare. One of the hardest things about watching top players is the other teams wonâ€™t pitch to themâ€¦I know JJ Picollo went to watch him closer to the draft and Wil did not see any pitches until his last at bat. He hit a home run but I remember JJ texting me and saying this was crazy he isnâ€™t getting any pitches. It is one thing to talk to your guys that believe in a player but it is important to see that for yourself too.â€
â€œWe definitely considered Wil to be worthy of our first pick and we were especially sold on him when he came to our workout day at the stadium. He won over our group with his bat, charisma and free and easy approach. We had really been sold on him by Connelly, who spent as much time with Wil as he could. In his area there is a lot of talent, so to spend as much time as he did getting to know Wil is a real credit to what he thought of him. Connelly put his stones on him early and stayed on him. We had a good idea of the money it would take and felt we had the complete package on him.â€
â€œWe thought Wil could handle a premium position like catcher and I remember we had a discussion about this in the draft room. I said alright letâ€™s take the catching thing out of this and just view him as a bat. We all knew he had the tools but, do we want him there. We decided to view him as a bat only and that is when we knew, collectively, that he was one of the best, if not the best bat in the draft. We know we didnâ€™t over value him.â€
The Royals were prepared to take him in the first round but things fell a different way and it began to look like Wil would not be a Royal.
â€œI thought he would be long gone by the 3rd round. But, once he started sliding I was paying attention to a few teams. Remember, we didnâ€™t have a second round pick that draft. I knew the Red Sox and Indians were in play. Wil didnâ€™t fit the profile of what Cleveland would do but we knew they really liked him. I knew the area scout of the Braves also really liked him. We were paying a lot more attention as he continued to slide. We knew who would and wouldnâ€™t take on his signing bonus demands. (2 million like Coach Tanner had said) we had the dollars without that second round pick. He fell to us and honestly we had done so much talk on him in the draft room we knew we were justified in taking him and reaching out for that bonus with the 91st pick. We have to respect our owners and GM to ask for that amount but we were convinced he was worth it. One thing about Dayton and our owners is they are very supportive of the draft. If we believe in someone we can get a deal done. I know we donâ€™t over pay for anyone. We pay them generally close to where we think they are.â€
Wil signed with the Royals and immediately began to put his stamp on the organization
Catcher Ben Theriot remembers seeing Myers at a pre-draft workout at the K and remembers â€œI saw him hit balls for miles. He had so much raw ability. As I watched the draft unfold I saw his name called by KC and my name was called six rounds later.â€
Keaton Hayenga and Jake Kuebler were playing for the Burlington Royals in 2009 and while Myers was not signed he still worked out with the team since it was near his home.
Hayenga remembers â€œright after he was drafted he came out and worked out with us for a week. He caught some pen and hit a lot.â€
Kuebler remembers Myers as being very young and maybe not the most mature at the time but he says â€œhe hit the ball harder than anyone in batting practice and that includes Hoz and Moose. But, if he didnâ€™t feel like hitting or catching he just wouldnâ€™t do it. I remember our manager asked if he even wanted to be here. As I got to know Wil I realize he was just 18 and while he has matured so much he always has that swagger, which you need to succeed in this game.â€
Hayenga says the first time he was around Myers he thought how reserved he was adding â€œI knew he was a confident kid but when you got to know him he is one of the easiest guys to talk to. He is hilarious, beats to his own drum and has his own opinions. He is odd, but in a good way. He is kind of quirky about how he thinks about things.â€
Everyone knows now that Wil was drafted as a catcher and for the first couple of years he was working at being the next Royals catcher.
Theriot was a college signÂ and spent his first full season playing with Idaho Falls. Myers joined that club as the year progressed. â€œIt is my personality to take in new guys. I try to welcome them and not pre judge them by their signing bonus. Usually your gut reaction says this is an arrogant kid but I remember thinking that he was an 18-year-old kid away from home and in Idaho. Maybe he is just not that talkative.â€
Theriot says â€œI got to know him and quickly learned how passionate he was. How he wanted to get better. He goes about things differently and it works for him. He has a routine that might make people think he does not like to be told what to do but I think he knows what works for him. He never got away from who he is and always stuck to just being very simple. He wonâ€™t look at video and he wonâ€™t break down mechanics. He just doesnâ€™t overanalyze things. Like I said, he is simple. That is a hard thing for an 18-year-old to know what they wanted. But, he knew and he stayed true to that.â€
Hayenga says â€œI think he had all the tools to be a good catcher. But, I feel he could play anywhere in the field. At catcher he definitely improved in terms of focus in my time playing with him (also teammates at low A Burlington) in North Carolina he would have lapses and passed balls but in Iowa he did a much better job and he had an absolute rocket for an arm. He was a smart enough player to make it at catcher.â€
Kuebler added â€œCatching wasnâ€™t his thing but I know he will be a great OF and I think catching allowed him to take a better approach to the game. He got a mental edge from it.â€
Theriot â€œthey donâ€™t let many people do what Wil did. He could catch if he still needed to because he is just a pure athlete. He is like Craig Biggio. He is an athlete who loves a challenge and will never say no.â€
Myers thoughts on catching align well with his teammates â€œI had mixed feelings on catching, I liked it but at the same time I didnâ€™t. I loved catching guys like John Lamb who just located the ball so well. But, I hated wild pitchers and catching bullpen and the early work stuff. But, I loved being in control of the game. Tony Tijerina did a great job with me and I loved working with him. He is a great guy and I still talk to him. He did the best he could to prepare me as a catcher.â€
Theriot remembers â€œWil said he did not catch much in high school but he never complained and he and TJ (Tijerina) put in a lot of work. He could easily have said no, but he didnâ€™t and I know he had dreams of catching in the big leagues.â€
After a couple of years the Royals made the transition of moving Myers from catcher. Hayenga thinks it was the right idea â€œhe hated catching, and loves hitting. I would talk to him about the transition and I know if he could hit all day he would. He was willing to catch because the organization wanted it and he is not a guy to turn down a challenge but I knew mentally he would be better as a hitter first rather than worry about catching all the time.â€
The move to make Myers a OF was much easier with the emergence of Salvador Perez at catcher. â€œThat was the thing, I wasnâ€™t a terrible catcher but I looked bad when Sal was on the team because everyone wanted to throw to him. I canâ€™t blame them because he is the best catcher I have ever seenâ€¦plus he is the only person I have ever seen with bigger hands than myselfâ€ (laughs)
- â€¢ Ben Theriot retired from baseball in 2012 and is now pursuing his college degree at North Texas. He and Wil still talk regularly and he plans on being at Myers MLB debutâ€¦â€I just want people to read this and know what a great guy he is.â€
- â€¢ Jake Kuebler was released by the Royals in July of 2012 but soon signed with the New York Mets as a pitcher. He was sent to the Dominican Republic in the fall and is throwing 94 and getting solid reviews from baseball people I have talked to.
- â€¢ Keaton Hayenga retired from baseball during the 2011 season after facing another surgery on his shoulder. He played basketball at Bellevue Community College where he averaged 17.7 points per game. He transferred to Washington State this year and he recently gave my dad and myself tickets to see him play against KU at the Sprint Center.
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