It was easy for Maddon on Monday to imagine Wil Myers, who is ranked the organization's No. 1 prospect by MLB.com, trotting onto the field to play against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, and not just because the Rays were, in fact, playing the Sox and Myers started in right field at JetBlue Park, with its replica Green Monster looming in left. The 22-year-old wunderkind who was the centerpiece of the trade that sent All-Star right-hander James Shields to the Royals last September has made such a good impression since joining his new club this spring.
"Real good. I like him," Maddon said. "The offense is obvious. It is special. It is going to be very special. He's got one of those unique styles. Oftentimes I think some really great players do things that are unique to them, and how he sets up and the way his bottom half works and how he uses his hands are slightly unique to him. You don't see it often, so I like that part of it."
Myers, too, allowed his mind to roam to Boston, standing and staring at the famous likeness for a few minutes after arriving at the ballpark.
"It was really cool playing here, with the Green Monster and everything," Myers said after going 0-for-3 in the Rays' 5-1 loss. "It was cool. I did think about that."
In stops at Double-A and Triple-A last season, Myers batted a combined .314 with 37 homers, 109 RBIs and a .987 OPS.
How soon Myers makes his first appearance at Fenway Park remains to be seen. Last year's two super-duper prospects, Mike Trout with the Angels and Bryce Harper with the Nationals, came up early enough in 2012 to not just help their teams win, but to be voted Rookie of the Year in their respective leagues.
The Rays averaged just 4.3 runs per game last season, and that was before losing center fielder B.J. Upton to free agency, so they could clearly use some pop. On the other hand, Tampa Bay has tended to bring its younger players along slowly. This season, the ballclub could have Matt Joyce lined up to play left, Desmond Jennings in center and Ben Zobrist in right, with Sam Fuld penciled in as the fourth outfielder.
"We heard so many good things, but as far as we're concerned, you get some of these young players and it still takes patience," said bench coach Dave Martinez, who works with the Rays' outfielders. "The rewards will be great, but you've got to be patient. We think he's going to play many years in the big leagues. He's going to help us win a lot of ballgames. It's just a matter of time.
"Honestly, he's going to be a Major League player. If not this year, soon -- real soon. He's got all the tools."
Maddon learned a little more about Myers when he tripled against the Twins on Sunday.
"How well he ran surprised me," said Maddon. "What I mean is, not just that that he looked fast. The gait was great. The stride was really good, and it was kind of fluid and effortless. I liked that."
The jury is still out on Myers in the field.
"Defensively, I have not seen him challenged there yet. I want to see more of that," Maddon said. "We're trying to build a complete ballplayer here, so that would be the part that I want to see more of, but first impressions are that he's as advertised.
"This guy is going to be really good. He is good. How much more does he have to accomplish to become a very good Major League player? I'm not sure yet, because I haven't seen enough, but it's easy to say he's going to be a very good Major League player."
"Obviously I'd like to get here as quickly as soon as possible," Myers said, "but that's not my decision. That's up to the front office, so I put it in their hands. I just try to get better every day."