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Wil Myers' wrist injury deals another blow to sliding Rays

Wil Myers has followed up his AL Rookie of the Year-winning season with a .227/.313/.354 line this year. (Brian Blanco/Getty Images)Wil Myers has followed his Rookie of the Year-winning 2013 with a .227/.313/.354 line this year. (Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

A rough season for the Rays has taken a turn for the worse. Amid a six-game losing streak to division rivals Toronto and Boston, they placed Wil Myers on the disabled list on Sunday with a right wrist sprain (UPDATE: and will be out for at least two months) — a loss that won't help their ailing offense or their efforts to climb back into contention.

Myers injured himself on the final play of Friday night's contentious contest with the Red Sox, the one that featured David Price hitting both David Ortiz and Mike Carp with pitches. With one out in the bottom of the 10th inning, Myers collided with Desmond Jennings while in pursuit of A.J. Pierzynski's fly ball, which rattled around Fenway Park's centerfield triangle as Jonny Gomes came around to score the winning run from first base. Myers landed on his glove hand (his left), but his right hand may have hit the ground even harder as he flipped over; Jennings actually appeared to get the worst of the collision, remaining down through the rest of the play while Myers retrieved the ball. Here's the play:

[mlbvideo id="33306115" width="600" height="336" /]

After sitting out Saturday's game, Myers was placed on the disabled list prior to Sunday's contest; it's his first time hitting the DL since 2011, when he was playing for the Royals' Double-A affiliate. He's scheduled to see the Rays' orthopedist, Dr. Koco Eaton, on Monday, after which a fuller prognosis will be known.

UPDATE: And that prognosis is a bad one for both Myers and the Rays. According to the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin, Myers will miss at least the next two months after exams revealed a slight stress fracture in his wrist. He'll be in a cast for the next five-to-six weeks and will then go on a rehab assignment. As such, don't expect to see him again until the end of July or possibly early August.

The injury is just the latest blow to Myers' sophomore season. Expected to build on his 2012 Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year award and his 2013 AL Rookie of the Year honors — the latter for an 88-game showing after being kept in the minors until mid-June — the 23-year-old rightfielder has struggled mightily, hitting just .227/.313/.354, down from .293/.354/.478 last year. His productivity has dropped 43 percent relative to the league, from a 132 OPS+ to 89.

Indeed, he had fallen on particularly hard times lately. In his last 13 games, Myers has gone just 4-for-39 with one extra-base hit, a homer in last Wednesday's loss to the Blue Jays, his fifth of the year and his first since May 4. He walked 11 times in that span, including three on Friday night, but his slump has been emblematic of the Rays' slide; during that 13-game span, the team went 5-8 while averaging a meager 3.20 runs per game.

Some of Myers' falloff may just have been his luck evening out. Last year's performance owed plenty to a .362 batting average on balls in play, the sixth-highest in the AL among players with at least 350 plate appearances (he had 373). This year, he's down 80 points to .282. His groundball-to-flyball ratio is basically unchanged, but he's hitting more popups and fewer line drives, and while he's been pulling the ball slightly more often, the results just haven't been there:

Year

Pull

BABIP

Middle

BABIP

Oppo

BABIP

2013

31%

.414

56%

.333

13%

.367

2014

33%

.375

52%

.257

14%

.150

Unlike other hitters, Myers can't blame the growing trend in defensive shifts for his troubles: Via Baseball Info Solutions, teams have shifted on Myers just 13 times on balls in play, and he's actually collected six hits in those situations.

Relative to last year, Myers has gotten more selective at the plate, with his Outside Zone swing rate falling from 29 percent to 26 percent according to FanGraphs. While he's striking out at around the same clip as last year, his unintentional walk rate has sharply increased, from 7.2 percent to 10.7 percent. Even so, he's actually seeing fewer pitches per plate appearance (from 3.96 to 3.87). When he connects, in addition to the lousy results on balls in play, he's not packing much punch; his isolated power has fallen from .185 last year to .126 this year.

Myers' performance has fallen off against pitchers of both hands, but it's done so far more drastically against lefties. He hit them at a .293/.387/.434 clip in 119 PA last year, but has fallen to .186/.250/.288 against them in 64 PA this year. Meanwhile, he's fallen off against righties from .292/.339/.496 in 254 PA to .248/.388/.381 in 160 PA this year.

Those struggles may just be small-sample strangeness, but they come at a rough time for the Rays. Mainstays Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist have both been subpar thus far, with 98 OPS+ apiece; the latter returned to the lineup on Friday after missing 13 games due to a dislocated thumb. David DeJesus (129 OPS+), Matthew Joyce (114 OPS+), James Loney (110 OPS+) and Desmond Jennings (100 OPS+) have been the only Rays regulars who have been league average or better, and both DeJesus and Joyce often sit against lefties. The team's 3.81 runs per game and 93 OPS+ are both the league's third-worst, while their .364 slugging percentage is second-worst.

Pair that with subpar run prevention (4.47 per game, 10th in the league) borne of a banged-up rotation and an overtaxed bullpen, and you've got a recipe for losing. The Rays are now 23-34, 10 1/2 games out of first place in the AL East and 4 1/2 behind the fourth-place Red Sox, who have backed a 10-game losing streak with a seven-game winning streak. In addition to losing six in a row, Tampa Bay has lost 17 of 25, their worst stretch since they went 7-18 in August and September 2009. Their −38 run differential is the league's second-worst, ahead of only the Astros' −45.

For the moment, the Rays have called up 26-year-old righty Jerry Sands to replace Myers on the roster, but he may not be of much help; while he was batting 268/.352/.474 at Triple-A Durham, he was terrible in the minors last year, and owns just a .240/.320/.369 line in his 255 major league plate appearances, most of which came with the Dodgers in 2011. Rookie Kevin Kiermaier, a 24-year-old lefty, started the Rays' last two games in right and hit an inside-the-park homer on Sunday when Boston's Jackie Bradley Jr. got hit in the nose by a carom; he's known more for his speed and defensive skill than his power.

For the moment, the Rays will have to make do, but as with the losses of Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson and the since-returned Alex Cobb, their chances of contending are much lower when they're at less than full strength. Even when Myers returns, they'll need a whole lot more from him than they've seen thus far if they're to climb back into the playoff picture.

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