Wil Myers Vs. Steven Souza: Did Rays Upgrade Or Downgrade?

The Wil Myers experience for the Tampa Bay Rays was short and sweet. It was not quite what Rays fans expected it to be, but when one door closes, another one opens. The door that opened brought Steven Souza to the Tampa Bay Rays and sent Myers to the San Diego Padres as a part of a three team trade that also included the Washington Nationals.

No matter the other players in the trade, and there were others, for Rays fans all that matters for now is the Rays gave up Myers and got Souza, as Souza figures to take over Myers’ spot in right field to start the year. The question begs the asking; did they upgrade or downgrade?

To this point, the biggest advantage Myers has over Souza is MLB experience. Myers has logged, in two years in the big leagues, 175 games played and 734 plate appearances. Souza got to the majors for the first time last year, and in 21 games, he had only 26 plate appearances. Both changed leagues and have plenty of questions surrounding them. So, what kind of seasons might Myers and Souza have? Here are the ZiPS and Steamer projections for both.

Souza

  • Steamer: 117 GP, .246/.313/.420, 18 HR, 58 RBI, .174 ISO, .323 wOBA, 112 wRC+, 1.6 fWAR
  • ZiPS: 110 GP, .228/.304/.396, 15 HR, 46 RBI, .168 ISO, .310 wOBA, 103 wRC+, 1.4 fWAR

Myers

  • Steamer: 128 GP, .246/.318/.412 slash line, 18 HR, 62 RBI, .166 ISO, .321 wOBA, 109 wRC+, 1.6 fWAR
  • ZiPS: 126 GP, .267/.335/.433 slash line, 17  HR, 57 RBI, .166 ISO, .337 wOBA, 120 wRC+, 2.1 fWAR

Obviously, projections see them as similar hitters, but why did the Rays move Myers if they were similar hitters? Souza has only had limited major league experience, so we have to make some suppositions on his suitability as opposed to Myers.

Whether or not they admit it, the Rays gave up on Myers. Can you really blame them? The red flags in Myers’ scouting reports, strikeouts and defense, became bigger and bigger last year and hard to ignore.

Souza, on the other hand, has bucked the usual trend of a player as he has progressed through the minors. In 2014, he notched a sub-20 percent strikeout rate for the first time in his minor league career, 18.4%. In Myers’ two stints in Triple-A, 2012 with the Royals and 2013 with the Rays, Myers struck out 22.3 percent and 24.6 percent of the time respectively. Souza will strikeout, make no mistake, but last year was his best year in the minors. He was named International League MVP. The Rays view Souza as a safer player and one who is trending upwards with the bat while they view Myers as risky and trending downwards, and that is a big part of the reason why they made this deal.

Defensively, Souza, according to an assessment from Draysbay, has “got the defense to play in either outfield corner with above average tracking speeds.” His catch to preserve Jordan Zimmermann‘s no-hitter last year for the Washington Nationals is one that even the biggest Myers fan will admit is likely not a catch he would make. Part of the reason why Souza’s projections may seem underwhelming is because both ZiPS and Steamer see him as a below-average defender, but it appears that he could actually end up being better than that.

While it is difficult to say conclusively whether or not the Rays traded up or down substituting Myers for Souza, Rays fans like Souza’s potential and feel positive that he will do damage this year. We will not truly be able to judge this trade for a few years, but you could very well draw up a scenario in which Souza is a big upgrade for the Rays, both in 2015 and beyond.

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