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Finding Wil Myers a home on defense

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So far this season, Wil Myers has been tried in CF and 1B after spending 2 years playing RF for the Rays. Has he found a defensive home or should we look for one?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

One of the big experiments for this season has been using Wil Myers as a CF. He has played 28 games at the position so far this season. That is not enough to make any sweeping conclusions, but it's enough to start a conversation about his defense out there. Let's start that conversation with a gif:

Myers allows HR

Here, Myers tries to track a deep fly by Houston's Evan Gattis. You watch him turn his numbers to the infield and get back to the warning track. He didn't track the ball well enough on his initial run and has to curl his route so that he can get under the ball. This makes the catch more difficult as he now has to be moving his feet when he reaches where the ball is coming down. The ball is not going to clear the fence on it's own, but is high enough that Myers will have to add a leap at the end of his journey to try to catch it further adding to the difficulty of the catch attempt. The result is that Myers gets a glove on the ball, but it bounces off his mitt, hits the top of the wall and hops over the fence for a home run.

I'm not going to say Myers can't be a CF because of one play, but I like it is an illustration of a theme. It's probably Myers' worst moment at the position to date. He has had other poor fielding moments, usually related to trying to track balls over his head. Some of this may be related to playing CF specifically. There is more ground to cover and the trajectories the ball takes off the bat when he to the center of the park may have some more challenges than balls swatted to left or right field, where Myers has played in the past. In general though, it makes you wonder if CF or even the OF is the right spot for Myers.

Back when Myers was drafted by the Kansas City Royals out of North Carolina's Wesleyan Christian Academy in 2009, he was listed as a catcher. In 2009 and 2010, his only defensive position while playing with the Royals' minor league affiliates was catcher. In 2011, the organization moved him out from behind the plate and had him play all 3 outfield positions. After the season, he got to try his hand at 3B while still playing some outfield. In 2012, he got in a handful of games at the hot corner while spending the majority of the time back in the outfield playing mostly CF for the Royals' AAA affiliate. 2013 saw him change organizations and the Tampa Bay Rays firmly planted him in RF since that was their position of need at the major league level. Last year also saw him spend nearly all his time in RF, except for 2 games at 1B and 1 in CF.

Fast forward to the present. Three days ago, Yonder Alonso hit the disabled list and Myers was moved to 1B. So far there have been no gaffes like the gif above. In fact, there have been some excellent plays like that gif below:

Myers diving stop

This diving stop illustrates how the 24 year old has good instincts in the infield. He's had a couple such plays that show that he is comfortable getting after ground balls. In addition, at first base he's shown to be able to use his height to help stretch for throws. So far, it seems like a natural fit.

One could probably make the argument that it would be best for the team defensively this season if Myers just stayed at 1B. However, offense is also part of the equation and the team is probably better off in that regard if upon Yonder Alonso's return Myers moves back to CF and Will Venable goes back to the bench. Still, Myers has shown the versatility to be able to give the team some flexibility this season and beyond.

As for future seasons, the team might have more options to consider. When the organization gets a chance to review the 2015 season, it seems likely that Myers' defense in CF will be a concern going forward. Justin Upton is a free agent at season's end, but I think we would all like to hold out hope that instead of Myers getting an opportunity to take Upton's defensive role, the Padres lock up the current LF to a long term deal. Even if that wish isn't granted, a couple of the Padres' best prospects are corner OFs, so a Myers move to LF still might not be optimal.

Does that mean we should expect Myers to move to 1B starting in 2016? Well, Yonder Alonso is still under team control through 2017, so maybe not. Even if Alonso's injury woes mean the team choose to move on from him, there still might be a better option than converting Wil into a 1B. Sticking Myers at 1B for remainder of his time as a Padre means blocking the position from any other hulking sluggers that A.J. Preller might be able to acquire. So, I have another idea.

Remember, a bunch of paragraphs earlier when I mentioned the Royals organization tried Myers at 3B? I would like to see the Padres experiment with that again before next season. His instincts as an infielder seem to suggest he could handle the quick reactions he'd need over there. Also, his arm seems strong enough to handle the throws the position requires. Currently, the Padres have Will Middlebrooks, Yangervis Solarte and Cory Spangenberg as 3B options, but Middlebrooks' bat still isn't living up to its potential and Solarte and Spangenberg are probably best deployed as utility men (or 2B if Gyorko never comes around). It's worth a shot.

As for CF, there's still a chance Myers ends up back out there in the future. Will Venable has been filling in well during Myers' sojourn at 1B, but he's a free agent after this season. However, the Padres do now have Melvin Upton from his injury (I heard he's currently participating in games at extended spring training) and under contract through 2017. Perhaps he can turn things around and become Myer's eventual replacement in CF.  In any case, it would seem Myers' defensive future is up in the air and we can only begin to guess where it will land.