• Meet Alex Meyer

    Yesterday, the Twins traded a known commodity in center fielder Denard Span for the potential of right-hander Alex Meyer, a 6-foot-9, hard-throwing and former first round pick with talents that have impressed prospect pundits.

    While the Nationals get immediately better, the Twins will have to wait to see if Meyer’s talent pans out.
    Here’s what we know about Meyer: He can throw in the upper 90s (ooh!) coupled with a devastating breaking pitch (ahh!) and is really super tall (whoa!). Do those three things make him destined for baseball immortality? Not necessarily, after all, two of those three things could have been said about former Twin Jim Hoey.

    So what makes Meyer so promising to the Twins?

    Off the bat, well, he misses bats - something that has been sorely lacking among the system’s talent. In first professional season, Meyer struck out 26.6% of all batters faced. Comparatively, the starter to throw over 100 innings with the closest strikeout rate within the Twins organization was Liam Hendriks with a 19.9% strikeout rate.

    When opponents do make contact, they have mainly put the ball in play on the ground. With a ground ball rate over 50% split between two levels, Meyer has proven that his pitches are difficult to square up. Although grounder rates typically decline some as a pitcher advances up the ladder, Meyer’s current rate is impressive and a good starting point.

    Because of his Futures Game outing, albeit a brief, six-pitch endeavor, we have a glance at what sort of action he has on his pitches thanks to the magic of pitch f/x cameras.

    The first thing that sticks out is his release point. Naturally, with a big frame at 6-foot-9, you would expect that he would have an equally impressive release point. Unlike fellow vertically imposing hurlers like Jon Rauch (6-foot-11), Meyer does not have a release point that extends above his height limit. Rauch’s fastball release point has averaged 7.1 feet above the ground (remember, pitch f/x captures the “release point” a foot and change after a pitcher lets go of the ball). By comparison, the pitch f/x camera’s that night in Kauffman Stadium said that Meyer’s fastball was being released at 6.6 feet on average - slightly below his overall height.

    This means Meyer is coming from a three-quarter slot rather than over-the-top arm action. In this screen grab captures from Mike Newman’s scouting video, you can see where Meyer’s release point is:



    During his Futures Game outing, BrooksBaseball.net says that Meyer’s no-seam fastball, a pitch he threw four of the six times, averaged 99 miles an hour with glove-side run.

    Obviously when you are throwing cheddar at 95+ as a starter, the movement is not exactly the focal point that the hitter is grumbling about as he walks back to the dugout. Still, it is noteworthy that Meyer has some very good run on his fastball nonetheless. If you don’t have movement, you end up like Jim Hoey’s fastball which major league opponents can catch up to,

    In describing this no-seam pitch, Meyer told MiLB.com’s Andrew Pentis that in college he had thrown a straight four-seam fastball but discovered that he actually threw his “no-seam” fastball -- a two-seam grip in which he positions his fingers closer together off of the seams -- harder than his four-seamer with the added bonus of movement. Combined with his three-quarters release point, this pitch will demonstrate plenty of run.

    So, if a hitter actually is able to catch up to this 99er, it is also running either into (if right-handed) or away from (if left-handed) and making it that much more difficult to square up. This is part of the reason why he has been able to generate ground balls in over 50% of balls put into play.

    This particular clip of his fastball, captured during a bullpen session while in the South Atlantic League by the aforementioned Newman, shows how his fastball runs down and into right-handers:





    What you also see is his ability to dial it up to another level:



    Meyer’s fastball does not end up at the catcher’s target (down in the zone) but rather finishes up in the zone. To me, this is reminiscent of some of Justin Verlander’s fastballs. Watching Verlander the years, you see his catcher call for something lower and then have the right-hander simply overpower you with a high fastball.

    What makes him more than just a one-trick pony is his devastating knuckle curve he mixes in. While some outlets will frequently refer to this pitch as a “slider” - mostly because it is thrown with a hard velocity and has a sharp, downward break - Meyer actually grips this pitch with a fingernail dug into the horseshoe-shaped part of the ball.

    As he describes to Pentis:

    "I stick the fingernail of my pointer finger right in the middle of the seam when I wrap my middle finger to the inside of the seam. My thumb is tucked down underneath. When I throw it, I pull down with my middle finger and flick out my pointer finger."
    Here is Meyer’s knuckle curve grip during the Futures Game. Note the positioning of his index finger:



    This downward action created by the grip has caused plenty of swing-and-misses and was rated by Baseball America as the best slider in the Nationals’ organization. While it is absolute filth at times, some of his unstable mechanics, an issue with taller pitchers, caused some problems this pitch.

    During his outing this summer, Newman noted that:




    Meyer mixed in an upper-80′s slider with tight, late break. At its best, his arm action was identical to that of his fastball and it profiled as at least an above-average pitch. However, Meyer’s inconsistent mechanics caused him to intermittently drop his elbow or collapse his back leg leading to at least a handful of “hangers” up in the zone.
    In addition to his knuckle curve, Meyer is developing a change-up which he admits does not have the overall feel for but is working hard on perfecting that pitch. At the very least, the change in velocity -- from the upper 90s to the upper 80s -- gives the opponents something to think about. However, if Meyer is going to progress to the point of being a front-of-the-rotation starter, he will need to have that all-important third pitch. Otherwise his two-pitch fastball-knuckle curve combination has reliever written all over it.

    It’s long been said that there is no such thing as a pitching prospect. Some flame out, some get hurt and some never adapt. In Meyer’s case, injury is not out of the question, but his skill set is very strong. The Twins organization’s coaches and instructors -- likely those in New Britain -- will be tasked with refining his mechanics and instilling some consistency in them as well as finalizing his change-up in order to maximize his potential as a starter.
    This article was originally published in blog: Meet Alex Meyer started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 17 Comments
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      I rolled my eyes a little at the tiresome Hoey mention and then you properly debunked that BS argument that some have made.

      Great article all around.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      I like his arm slot and movement. The arm slot will make him particularly tough on righties, a la Justin Masterson. His movement will make him tough on lefties. I also think his arm slot makes him less injury prone. Tall guys who come over the top put a lot of undue stress on the elbow and shoulder.

      If he can develop his change and smooth out his mechanics next year (likely between AA and AAA), we can pencil him into the 2014 rotation. Now if they just use Span's dollars to help the 2013 rotation, perhaps with a different Myers...
    1. gunnarthor's Avatar
      gunnarthor -
      Nice write up. I remember when he was drafted, he slipped a little bit b/c he was a Boras client. I think his upside was as good as possible for Span. NIce get, now we just hope he develops into an all star.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      His movement will make him tough on lefties. I also think his arm slot makes him less injury prone. Tall guys who come over the top put a lot of undue stress on the elbow and shoulder.
      '

      Very true. In fact:

      vs LHB 205 BF, .187 BA, 37.8% K%
      vs RHB 294 BF, .220 BA, 23.5% K%
    1. StormJH1's Avatar
      StormJH1 -
      Great write-up, thanks! Especially enjoyed the GIFs of that fastball that breaks in on the hands of right handers. The Span deal reminds me a lot of the Garza/Delmon deal in that we were acquiring a young player with a good pedigree on the assumption that it made sense to trade a "surplus" item for something we couldn't produce on our own. In 2008, ironically, it was thought that the Twins had "too many" starting pitching prospects, yet couldn't produce power hitting outfielders. Now, almost exactly the opposite is true.
    1. AllhopeisgoneMNTWINS's Avatar
      AllhopeisgoneMNTWINS -
      Great article. Very excited about what he can become.
    1. Ultima Ratio's Avatar
      Ultima Ratio -
      What is a no-seam fastball? Serious question. Is this just a typo and supposed to be two-seam? That's my guess.
    1. East Coast Twin's Avatar
      East Coast Twin -
      The Twins organization’s coaches and instructors -- likely those in New Britain -- will be tasked with refining his mechanics and instilling some consistency in them as well as finalizing his change-up in order to maximize his potential as a starter.
      Isn't he more likely to start the season at Fort Myers? He spent most of last year in low A.
    1. Jack Torse's Avatar
      Jack Torse -
      His drop and rock motion by itself reminds me of Verlander's delivery.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ultima Ratio View Post
      What is a no-seam fastball? Serious question. Is this just a typo and supposed to be two-seam? That's my guess.
      It's explained in the article. A two-seamer where he moves his fingers closer together and off the seams.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jack Torse View Post
      His drop and rock motion by itself reminds me of Verlander's delivery.
      I had a similar reaction, though I used "free and easy" as I was watching the bullpen video. Of course I don't know if that's his best fastball or if he's still taking it easy a bit - but the tailing movement indicates this isn't his first warmup throw of the session.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by StormJH1 View Post
      it made sense to trade a "surplus" item for something we couldn't produce on our own.
      I hated the trade, not because we shouldn't trade from surplus but because we picked the wrong guy to trade away. Him and Baker I'd have made untouchable, at the time, and I would have offered a GM his pick of any of the rest. But maybe GMs also assessed Garza as the best of the Twins starters and our GM wanted to get the greatest return possible. Oh well. Kind of similar to asking "why not trade Revere instead of Span, I like Span better" - yeah, and other GMs probably do too.

      Quote Originally Posted by StormJH1 View Post
      In 2008, ironically, it was thought that the Twins had "too many" starting pitching prospects, yet couldn't produce power hitting outfielders. Now, almost exactly the opposite is true.
      Generals always are "fighting the last war", aren't they.
    1. raindog's Avatar
      raindog -
      GREAT article. There is a lot to be excited about with this guy. Do you think his release point is easier on his arm than an over-the-top delivery?
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Randy Johnsonmechanics warm-up video:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbaKWvLFKjc


      Parker, if it is of particular interest to you, I'd be interested in your assessments in contrasting and comparing Meyer and Johnson. It appeared over the entire Meyer video that his release point jumped quite a bit, but both hurlers employed 3/4 style deliveries. If there is video out there of a young Randy Johnson that might be enlightening, as well. How many significant arm difficulties did Johnson have over his career and when did they start?


      I looked up Johnson's AA stats at age 23:

      ERA 3.73/IP 140/WHIP 1.10/K^9 10.5/BB^9 8.2!!!!

      vs Meyer A/A+ stats at age 22:

      ERA 2.86/IP 129/WHIP 1.10/K^9 9.7/BB^9 3.1!!!!

      These stats are small, but possibly significant evidence that 2 similarly-sized flamethrowers have some correlation at this point in their minor league tenures, with the glaring exception that Meyer has already figured out the control issues to a greater degree.

      Give us more to rally around if you can, Parker!
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      I don't like that he crooks his elbow when he takes his throwing arm back. It removes the whip set of his wrist. The resulting lack of rhythm could make his timing inconsistent. He also seems too stiff as he rolls his forearm through the pronation point. On the other hand, his final acceleration is well out front, so he's not stressing his shoulder. If he's going to throw high sidearm, he might as well get more whip out of his torso.
    1. roger's Avatar
      roger -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      Randy Johnsonmechanics warm-up video:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbaKWvLFKjc


      Parker, if it is of particular interest to you, I'd be interested in your assessments in contrasting and comparing Meyer and Johnson. It appeared over the entire Meyer video that his release point jumped quite a bit, but both hurlers employed 3/4 style deliveries. If there is video out there of a young Randy Johnson that might be enlightening, as well. How many significant arm difficulties did Johnson have over his career and when did they start?


      I looked up Johnson's AA stats at age 23:

      ERA 3.73/IP 140/WHIP 1.10/K^9 10.5/BB^9 8.2!!!!

      vs Meyer A/A+ stats at age 22:

      ERA 2.86/IP 129/WHIP 1.10/K^9 9.7/BB^9 3.1!!!!

      These stats are small, but possibly significant evidence that 2 similarly-sized flamethrowers have some correlation at this point in their minor league tenures, with the glaring exception that Meyer has already figured out the control issues to a greater degree.

      Give us more to rally around if you can, Parker!
      A better comparison is Meyer's 2012 results vs. Johnson's first full year out of USC at the age of 22 (1986). Johnson spent that year in the Florida State League after pitching 27.1 innings in the NYPL after being drafted and signing a year earlier. In 1986, Johnson posted a 3.16 ERA in 119.2 innings. He had 133 strikeouts and a whopping 94 walks. The only significant difference I see is that Meyer walks a lot less batters.
    1. shs_59's Avatar
      shs_59 -
      AS LONG AS THE CONTROL GODS keep Meyer on the same Improved path he's on and shown in 2012. Meyer will be somewhat a Max Schzerzer or Josh Johnson type of arm for us.

      I like him as a prospect a lot. Stay Healthy Alex!
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