Myers wins AL Rookie of the Year

When Tampa Bay acquired prized prospect Wil Myers via trade for James Shields, the expectations for his career with the Rays would be difficult to live up to.

On Monday, the 22-year-old received affirmation that he’s well on his way.

Myers was named the American League Rookie of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association of America, receiving 23 of 30 first place votes to become the third Rays player in the last six years. Evan Longoria previously won the award in 2008 and pitcher Jeremy Hellickson did so in 2011.

“To be able to win this award – it was just an honor to be a finalist for it,” Myers said. “It’s just very exciting.”

Detroit shortstop Jose Iglesias, who was acquired in July from Boston, was second in the voting, and Myers’ teammate, pitcher Chris Archer, was third. Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, a Tampa native, won the National League award.

“This is going to push him in the right direction to become a better player,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “There was a lot expected of him much like Longo and Price before him, and he handled it extremely well.”

And judging by Myers’ response to winning the award, the outfielder had his eyes set on another piece of hardware.

“It’s always nice to win a personal award, but at the end of the year, you obviously want to win the team award, the World Series,” Myers said.

Myers, who became the first position player in the AL to win the award with fewer than 100 games played, matching only Ryan Howard in the NL, hit .293 on the season with 13 home runs and 53 RBIs in 88 games.

The 2013 campaign was one of slow starts and strong finishes for Myers, who began the year with Triple-A Durham before being called up June 18, in large part to ensure a “Super Two” exception in the baseball arbitration eligibility process.

Through his first five games, Myers limped out to a .190 average, but on June 22, the rookie crushed his first home run – a grand slam – of Yankees ace CC Sabathia in his first show of power. By the end of the season while Tampa Bay was locked in a tight playoff race that included two tiebreakers, Myers was arguably the club’s most consistent hitter with a .308 batting average and .904 on-base plus slugging percentage.

Myers said he didn’t think he stood much of a chance for the award.

“When I was called up, it didn’t even cross my mind because I was excited to be in the major leagues,” he said.

The Rays as a whole saw the benefit of Myers being a mainstay in the lineup; Tampa Bay was 36-33 before his call-up and was 56-38 after it. He also led the team batting average, RBIs and OPS after making his debut.

“You put all of your expectations on winning each game for your team and set aside your personal goals,” Myers said. “I think that really gets the best out of each player when they just go out and do whatever they can to win.”

Myers previously was named the AL’s Outstanding Rookie during the Players Choice Award and AL Rookie of the Year by Sporting News.

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