'First impression' of Wil Myers 'very strong'

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Wil Myers question people seem to keep asking in the camp of those Tampa Bay Rays is this:

Is there any chance he starts the season on their big league roster?

But in reality, there’s about as much chance of that as there is of Rocco Baldelli starting the season on their big league roster. So the Wil Myers question we should really be asking is probably this:

What are the chances this guy makes an impact in the big leagues this season?

That, however, is a prediction the Rays aren't ready to make. But let’s just say this: Betting against it isn't a real good idea.

“We’re very sensitive to putting big expectations on young players,” the Rays’ executive vice president of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman, said Tuesday before his team’s Grapefruit League game against the Astros. “He’s certainly capable of helping us win games in 2013. And I’m confident he WILL help us win games in 2013. But we’re still very early on in the process of getting to know him, being around him, watching the way he works, observing the way he goes about the process of getting better in every facet of the game.

“To this point, everything’s been very positive,” Friedman went on. “The first impression has been very strong. So we’re anxious to spend the next four or five weeks around him and continue his development.”

Even with players they drafted and developed on their own, the Rays have long been cautious about rushing their future stars to the big leagues, for both baseball and economic reasons. But in a case like this, where almost no one in their camp had even laid eyes on Myers before the past two weeks, it’s safe to assume they’ll be even more cautious.

“We've obviously read a lot of scouting reports, watched a lot of video, talked to a lot of guys who have seen him play,” Friedman said. “And that’s great. That’s obviously a very important part of the process of acquiring players. But I think you end up knowing more about a guy after you've been around him for a week or two than you do from watching a guy play for three games. So we’re anxious to learn all of the different things about him and how he goes about his work, etc., that you can’t possibly know without being around him.”

Myers’ offensive talents have pretty much jumped off the field at his new team in a short time. (For what it’s worth, he’s 3-for-7 this spring, with a walk and a double, in three games.) But because the Rays were well aware he started his career as a catcher and has played only 93 minor league games in right field, they have devoted as much extra time and effort as possible to accelerating his progress as an outfielder.

“He hasn't played the position for that long,” Friedman said. “So just [to help him with] the nuances of the position, [coaches] George Hendrick and Dave Martinez have been working with him a lot out there. And that’s an attempt just to expedite that learning curve. It’s not like this guy has played the outfield all his life. So we’re spending a lot of time with him on that aspect.”

You can bet the mortgage to the beach house that work will continue in exotic Durham, N.C., for a couple of months this season. But at some point, this man is coming to a St. Petersburg dome near you. And that’s when the Wil Myers questions will really get fun.