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MLB.com Columnist

Lyle Spencer

Myers at forefront of dazzling new wave of talent

Myers at forefront of dazzling new wave of talent

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NEW YORK -- This is taking shape as "Get Acquainted With Stars of the Future Week" at Yankee Stadium.

Yasiel Puig, the Dodgers' sensational right fielder from Cuba, made his Bronx debut in a doubleheader with the Yankees on Wednesday. The whole package, he left a deep impression with his power, speed, arm and glove.

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As fans were still buzzing about the excitement generated by Puig, another 22-year-old outfielder was settling into the visitors' clubhouse, a few lockers down from the one vacated by Los Angeles' rising star.

Wil Myers, the centerpiece of the Rays' blockbuster winter deal with the Royals and one of the most heralded young players in recent years, made his Major League debut on Tuesday, going 1-for-7 in a doubleheader at Boston. He played his fourth game in a Rays uniform in the sport's shrine on Thursday night, facing 250-game winner Andy Pettitte.

Myers went 2-for-12 against the Red Sox with a double and two RBIs.

"It's cool to be here, playing the New York Yankees," Myers said, his eyes wide with anticipation. "It's awesome. Obviously, they have a great tradition, one of the best teams in baseball forever. I'm very excited."

Excited, yes. Intimidated? Not at all, if Sean Rodriguez has an accurate read on his young teammate.

"He just made his debut in Fenway Park against the Red Sox, in front of sellout crowds, and he wasn't scared at all," Rodriguez said. "Boston and New York -- nice way to start your career, right? I asked him how he felt playing his first game in Fenway, and he said it was cool. He was not nervous. He just called it a dream come true.

"He's a confident kid, with a lot of skills. He believes he belongs here. He's a big-time talent, no doubt about it. People want to compare his hitting style to [Evan Longoria], and there are some similarities. But with young guys as talented as he is, you just let them play. He can hit it a mile. With ease, too. His swing is natural. He's a big, strong kid, and he's going to get bigger and stronger with natural growth. Defensively, he's as fundamentally sound as they come."

Myers, who hails from Thomasville, N.C., is following Puig into right field at Yankee Stadium. He was primarily a center field in the Royals' system before the trade last December that sent him to the Rays along with third baseman Patrick Leonard and pitchers Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery.

The Royals were willing to pay a hefty tab for proven starters James Shields and Wade Davis, along with infielder Elliot Johnson.

Rays manager Joe Maddon would love to see Myers flourish behind Longoria in the lineup, but he's placing no expectations on the 6-foot-3, 190-pound athlete beyond "enjoying himself and playing hard on a regular basis."

"[Myers] is really a better athlete than people told me," Maddon said. "He's very good in the outfield. He runs well, throws well. He's eager, a good kid. The big thing is, he's not overwhelmed by it.

"If he stays healthy, the numbers are going to be more than good enough. I like his swing; the ball comes off his bat hot. Even though he's been scrutinized in the past, it's a little exaggerated now. Being around him, I don't think it bothers him. Is he going to struggle? Of course. But I think he's going to deal with it."

A dazzling new wave of talent is hitting the sport from shore to shore, with Myers -- who had 14 homers and 57 RBIs in 64 games for the Triple-A Durham Bulls -- joining Puig, the Orioles' Manny Machado, the Rangers' Jurickson Profar and the Rockies' Nolan Arenado, among others.

The youth movement began last season with the Angels' Mike Trout and the Nationals' Bryce Harper, who formed a rookie tidal wave the equal of any in the game's history.

Myers' power potential has been a hot topic among insiders since his 2009 debut season. He starred in the Futures Game last July in Kansas City with two hits and three RBIs after getting a rousing response from Royals fans anticipating his arrival.

"That was one of the coolest experiences I've ever had," Myers recalled. "Being part of the Futures Game in Kansas City and getting a standing ovation from 42,000 fans ... That was incredible."

Initially, he admitted, the trade "hurt a little bit. I'm going to miss a lot of the coaches and players there [in Kansas City]. It's a great organization. It's one of those things, the way the business is."

It didn't take Myers long at all to feel comfortable in his new organization. Maddon is well known for his ability to create and sustain positive energy, and Myers has responded to the warm reception of the Rays' coaches and players as well.

"All the guys on this team really helped, starting in Spring Training," Myers said. "It's a great clubhouse. All the players and coaches have been real cool to me."

And his impression of Maddon, the colorful renaissance man among Major League managers?

"He's a winner," Myers said. "He's a great manager, obviously. You feel like he's one of the guys, but at the same time, everyone respects him, his authority. It's really a great environment."

The Rays, in the Maddon era, have embraced a basic philosophy: Check your ego at the clubhouse door. If you do that, you'll have the most fun you've ever had in baseball.

Wil Myers has checked in, ready to show his stuff.

Lyle Spencer is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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