Since coming to the Twins from the Nationals in the Denard Span trade, Alex Meyer has been dangled as the carrot of promise. He possesses ace material in velocity and stuff. He's tall. He gets noticed.
As Twins prospects go, we've voted him as the organization's number four prospect heading into 2015. That in itself illustrates the depth of Minnesota's minor league system. We named him our third-best prospect for 2014 and, in his first turn with the club he was also third. In all three years he's been preceded by Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano (not necessarily in that order).
It's not just Twins fans that Meyer has been tantalizing, however. Here are his all-around rankings from the game's most respected prospect lists these previous two years.
|Year||Baseball America||Baseball Prospectis||Keith Law||MLB.com|
Meyer has been looking good for some time now. He dropped a spot on Law's list, but he's so effusive in his praise of Meyer it's hard to take it too seriously. That love fest looks like it will continue in 2015, as MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo names him as the #10 right-handed pitching prospect to watch this season. Here's what Mayo has to say:
Coming to Minnesota in the Denard Span trade, Meyer's first season with the Twins was limited because of a shoulder problem. He put that behind him in 2014, pitching all year and sending many Triple-A batters back to the dugout. He does it with an outstanding slider and a solid changeup. It's all about command and control. If he has that, he'll be in the rotation soon.
What is it that the scouts like about Meyer? The like the mid to upper-90s fastball, the "knockout" slider, and the fact that he knows how to get a strikeout. They like that the delivery is fairly effortless, even if there are still mechanical issues. The arm strength is top of the line.
What do scouts not like? It's one thing, and it causes two issues: Meyer has a hard time repeating his delivery. All scouts mention his size and his lanky frame, and the issue stems from the difficulty that a lot of tall, lanky pitchers have, which is being strong with their throwing mechanics and being able to deliver each pitch the same way time after time after time. Meyer's arm and body can sometimes get out of sync, and as a result he can have command issues which inevitably leads to throwing too many pitches in too short of a time frame.
Which is a long way of saying: command and efficiency. That's what kept Meyer from making his Twins debut in 2014, and it's going to be what keeps him away from the Twins if anything can in 2015.
I recommend watching the video below. You can see the movement on some of Meyer's pitches, which look absolutely filthy, but you can also see how inconsistent he is when it comes to hitting his spots.
Long-term, the Twins are hoping that Meyer will turn into a starting pitcher. The changeup is coming along and should eventually be an average offering to pair with what are already two plus pitches in his fastball and slider. Most scouts agree that the rotation is where he'll end up thanks to his propensity to show off elite arm strength, two borderline elite pitches, and his ability to generate swings-and-misses. Law and Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus both rave about the stuff before cautioning with words about the mechanics and command.
FanGraphs' Kiley McDaniel agrees with most of the same points but comes to a different conclusion, stating "...the upside is probably a #3 starter but this seems destined for the bullpen at some point." It's a minority opinion, but it's there lurking in the background, and it's worth considering as we're dreaming about Alex Meyer being the second coming of Randy Johnson. (Well, a more handsome Randy Johnson.)
Without a doubt, Meyer is the best pitching prospect the Twins have seen since Francisco Liriano. Perhaps Jose Berrios or Lewis Thorpe or Kohl Stewart can take that assertion over soon enough, but none of them have the experience or performance that Meyer has posted just a phone call away from the big leagues. And certainly none of them will be pitching for the Twins before Meyer, either.
Meyer has had a great minor league career, and at some point in the next few months he's going to get his chance to make an impact. For all of the hype and build-up, however, owning the status of best pitching prospect since Liriano and being among the game's best pitching prospects means nothing if the performance doesn't get turned in once he arrives in The Show.