I was at the game in Richmond yesterday to see Alex Meyer's debut. Unfortunately, I got there a bit late and missed his first inning. Also, I forgot to take notes during the game, so these comments are based on my ability to jive my memory with the Gameday results. Final confessions: I'm not a scout at all, just a baseball fan, I didn't have the best angle for identifying pitch type or location, and all pitch speed readings are from the stadium display. So basically take everything with a grain of salt.
For those who haven't seen yet, here are Meyer's raw stats for the game:
5 Innings Pitched
75 Pitches (53 Strikes)
6 Hits allowed
1 Run allowed
8 Strike Outs
Overall, it was a great stat-line - especially with all the strikeouts - and a great start to his Twins career.
Meyer is huge. You don't necessarily notice it when he is alone on the mound, but anytime he is next to a teammate, he towers over them. And it seems like his height is almost all from his legs. When he had a meeting at the mound with his catcher (Dan Rohlfing, 6'), my wife commented that his waist went up to the middle of Rohfling's chest protector.
He throws hard. His fastball sat 95-96 through all five innings, and the slowest fastball I saw was 93. His slider was generally 85-88, and the handful of change-ups (at least what I think were change-ups) were at 88. He mostly threw fastball-slider. In the four innings I watched, he didn't throw more than 5 change-ups (which I identified with my "that pitch was in the 80s but didn't seem to curve much - must be a change-up" method).
Stats Can Be Misleading
My overall impression of Meyer's outing was that he wasn't as dominating as his final stat line seems to indicate. Don't get me wrong, he pitched very well. However, opposing batters were not swinging and missing very much, and all five of the hits that I saw were the result of solid contact - there were no cheap or lucky hits. Most of the hits were on fastballs left up in the zone. Overall, Meyer had only six swing and misses in the entire game and half his strikeout were looking. I'm not sure how much to read from that, for a couple of reasons. First, the Richmond lineup was mostly left-handed, and Meyer attacked them with quite a few backdoor sliders, which was an interesting strategy to me and visible frustrated the hitters. Second, it is hard to know what the Richmond had for a scouting report on Meyer, as they may have expected more wildness from him and were told to take some strikes first. It should be mentioned that Meyer's control was very solid all day, and on his only walk of the game I thought he got screwed on a couple of calls.
The Richmond Flying Squirrels are the AA affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. In John Sickels's opinion, the Giants farm system is generally considered middle of the pack, and this particular farm team has four of their top-20 players in the lineup (#s 5, 9, 19, 20). By comparison, the Rock Cats don't have a single position player that made the Twins list. Now small sample size caveats apply here, but those four players did do much of the damage against Meyer. The consisted of only 10 of the 22 plate appearances, but they accounted for 4 of the 6 hits and only 3 of the 8 strikeouts.
Highlight - the 4th Inning
This wasn't a dominating inning, but it was a good inning to see Meyer get out of trouble and deal with some adversity. With one out in the inning, Meyer walked a batter. As I mentioned above, I thought there were a lot of good pitches that should have been called strikes in that at bat. The next batter hit a double into left-center field, putting runners at second and third with only one. With a left-handed batter up, Meyer fell behind 2-1. He managed to get a called strike to even the count (another backdoor slider if I remember correctly). After a couple of pitches were fouled off, he threw a beautiful change-up low and outside for the strikeout. The next batter was a right-hander, and Meyer quickly got ahead 0-2. After a couple more pitches Meyer put him away with a nasty slider low and outside.
Final Word on Meyer
Like I said at the beginning, Meyer pitched well, but he didn't dominate. When he missed his location with his fastball, he was hit hard, and he didn't get many swing and misses. His fastball was fast, but right now it seemed to lack that something extra - command, movement, velocity or deception - which separates the elite fastballs from the merely good. He had a lot of confidence with his slider, and it was an effective weapon against both right-handed and left-handed batters. I felt that his change-up was useful, though under-utilized.
- Daniel Santana didn't get any hits, but he hit two balls pretty hard to the outfield that were caught. He played well in the field, though he had one bad throw to first.
- Michael Tonkin pitched okay, but he gave up two doubles in the ninth which tied the game.
- James Beresford had a great defensive play at 2B running down a shallow fly-ball in right field. He made the catch, and then spun and doubled off the runner at first.
- Don't pay any attention to the W-L record for Meyer, Trevor May, or anyone else on the AA team. Their lineup isn't very good, so I doubt they will get much run support during the season.