Myers aims to tweak footwork, land future GG

Myers aims to tweak footwork, land future GG

SAN DIEGO -- A year ago, Wil Myers found his name squarely among the top defensive first basemen in the sport. On the night Major League Baseball's Gold Glove Award winners were announced, Myers was a finalist, and a very deserving one.

He didn't win. But he could have. And at the time, it felt like a future Gold Glove Award was inevitable. After all, Myers had dazzled defensively in his first full season at the position.

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One year later, that Gold Glove couldn't feel any further away. Myers wasn't among the finalists for the award.

"I came into the year wanting to get that Gold Glove," Myers said in early October. "Then I struggled. I struggled with being on my legs more. That's a thing I'm going to work on, because I know last year, I was arguably the best first baseman in the National League. ... I do believe I can be an elite defender at first base, and that's what I want to get back to doing."

Myers' defensive metrics plummeted in 2017. His range took a serious hit, in large part because he wasn't quick enough on sharply hit balls to his left and right.

Myers' fantastic stretch

It starts with footwork, and a bulk of Myers' offseason training regimen will be centered around just that.

"I need to move side-to-side a little bit better with my legs," Myers said. "I feel like a lot of times, I start low, I come up, then I have to get low again. For me, I'll be doing a lot of footwork drills. I do a lot of ladder drills, footwork around the bag."

Added Padres manager Andy Green: "If he's using his legs correctly, he'll have more range than most first basemen."

In 2016, Myers was tops among first basemen with an 8.0 Ultimate Zone Rating. Within that statistic, his range factor was 5.9 -- also the best in the Majors. He was edged out for the Gold Glove by Chicago's Anthony Rizzo, but only barely.

A year later, those superlatives flipped. His -7.7 UZR and his -6.6 range factor were last in the Majors. It was a perplexing shift, to say the least.

"He finished [in the] top three in the Gold Glove in his first year at first base," Green said. "This was a step back. There's no other way to define it. He's aware of that. And now it's: What are you going to do about it?"

Myers' hustling defensive play

In Myers' eyes, the struggles arose in 2017 from a few "bad habits" he picked up along the way. Now, he'll spend the offseason trying to rid himself of those habits. Chief among them: his penchant for popping out of his stance, then bending at the waist to field the ball.

It'll take an overhaul of his mechanics, certainly not an easy fix. But the Padres feel Myers is capable, given that he's arguably baseball's most athletic first baseman.

"He possesses everything necessary to be the best defensive first baseman in the game," Green said. "How much does he want it? And how hard is he going to focus on it? Those are the questions that we put to him, and he has to answer for himself."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.