23 (DOB: 1/3/90)
A/A+: 129.0 IP, 2.86 ERA, 139/45 K/BB, 1.10 WHIP
Generally speaking, the best trades are the ones that both sides can be happy about. Of course, for fans, the best trades are the ones where your team ripped off the other team. In late November, the Minnesota Twins and Washington Nationals finally reached an agreement on a deal that would send Denard Span to the nation’s capital in exchange for minor league pitcher Alex Meyer. The Nationals got the centerfielder and true leadoff hitter that they have been looking for, while the Twins got an upper echelon power pitching prospect that they have been yearning for.
Another frequently-used cliché used any time there is a trade is, “To get something good, you’ve got to give up something good.” Denard Span played a terrific centerfield in his five seasons with the Twins. He also hit .284/.357/.389 (.746) with 90 stolen bases despite missing time due to his 2011 concussion. Span has a very team-friendly contract in which he will make $11.25 million over the next two seasons and has a $9 million option for 2015. He will be an important cog for a Nationals team that has aspirations of a World Series championship in 2013.
For a team that has lost 195 games over the past two seasons and had one of baseball’s worst pitching staffs the last couple of seasons, obtaining high-ceiling, top-of-the-rotation starting pitching is crucial. The Twins acquired just that when they received Twins Daily’s choice for the Twins #5 Prospect, Alex Meyer.
Alex Meyer was the 20th
round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2008 out of his Indiana high school. He and his parents (with the assistance of advisor Scott Boras) turned down a $2 million signing bonus and chose to attend the University of Kentucky. When he went to college, he had a lot of development to do. His delivery and arm action needed to be helped. It’s not unusual that such tall, long pitchers take quite a bit of time to find a consistent release point and be able to repeat his pitches. Kentucky’s coach, Gary Henderson, develops a lot of credit for Meyer’s development. Because if it, when the 2011 draft rolled around, Meyer was the 23rd
overall pick by the Nationals, a compensatory pick from the White Sox for signing Type A free agent Adam Dunn. As much as the Twins liked him, there was no way he would fall to 30th
pick where the Twins took Levi Michael. Meyer (and his agent, Boras) was still able to get his $2 million signing bonus.
In his professional debut, the Nationals decided that it was best of Meyer to be sent to Low A Hagerstown. He went 7-4 with a 3.10 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP. In 90 innings, he walked 34 and struckout 107 (10.7 per nine). He was promoted to High-A Potomac where he went 3-2 with a 2.31 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP. In 39 innings, he walked just 11 (2.5 per nine) and struckout 32 (7.4 per nine)
When it comes to projectability, Alex Meyer tops the charts. At 6-9 and just 220 pounds, he has room to grow, to get bigger and strong, and even throw harder. That’s impressive when we are already talking about a guy who throws 94 to 96 mph and can reach back and hit 98 at any time. If you watched the Futures Game last year, he even hit 99 mph. He also has a very good slider that he throws at 85 to 89 mph. That fast became a swing-and-miss pitch for Meyer. In the last couple of years, he has really developed his changeup. It is a good pitch that has good sink. He also throws a knuckle-curveball that continues to need development.
At Kentucky, Meyer was a teammate of Twins minor leaguers Logan Darnell (6th
round, 2010), Lance Ray (8th
round, 2010), and Taylor Rogers (11th
round, 2012). It’s interesting to get their perspectives on the 23-year-old right-hander.
Darnell and Meyer were teammates for two years. He said, “He (Meyer) is a great guy, good teammate and a very talented player! He throws in the mid-to-high 90s with a very good slider, and a pretty good changeup. He’s excited to be a Twin too.”
Ray added, “Really excited about having the opportunity to play with Meyer again. He is a really talented pitcher, and I can’t wait to play defense behind him. Meyer is a guy who can dominate the game when he is on the mound.”
What were the qualities that the Twins saw in him to make him a target, willing to give up a talent like Span for him? According to Twins Vice President of Player Pesonnel, Mike Radcliff, “Meyer has the physical attributes to be a top-of-the-rotation starter which is arguably the most difficult commodity to acquire. His present stuff and pitches, along with an evolving maturity to apply his talent, give him a very high ceiling.”
Radcliff added, “Frankly, we don’t make this trade if there was not a high level of conviction that he can reach the performance levels of an impact starting pitcher.”
According to Radcliff, Meyer will have to “overcome the normal hurdles. He will have to gain more command of his fastball. He’ll have to find the usability of his complementary pitches.”
Again, tall, lanky pitchers typically struggle with release point consistency. It’s something that Meyer will have to overcome. Consider that Randy Johnson, one of the top handful of pitchers in the past 30 years and someone who should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The hard-throwing 6-10 lefty got to the big leagues for four starts as a 24 year old at the end of the 1988 season. In his age 25 season (1989), he walked 5.4 per nine innings and struck out 7.3 per nine. In 1990, he walked 4.9 per nine and struckout 7.1 per nine. In 1991, at age 27, he walked 6.8 batters per nine innings, although he did raise his K-rate to 10.2 per nine. And, in 1992, he walked 6.2 per nine and struckout 10.9. After turning 29 years old, he never walked more than 3.8 per nine. From 1999 (age 35 season) to 2009 (age 45 season), he never walked as many as 2.9 per nine.
No, I am not saying that Meyer is going to be the second coming of Randy Johnson, just that patience with any pitcher, much less a very tall pitcher is very important. To see that he walked just 3.1 batters per nine innings in his first professional season is certainly encouraging.
Radcliff added that Meyer will need to develop a couple more things that really can only be developed over time and innings. “The development of his physicality and mound presence to produce the innings potential and production of a rotation stalwart will also be key.”
The Bottom Line
Alex Meyer is 6-9. He throws a fastball that approached triple digits and has two or three pitches that are also considered plus-plus pitches. After developing a lot in college, he showed good progress in his first professional season. Many scouts have indicated that he has also shown a very good maturity, and a very professional approach.
One question we hear often is where Meyer will begin the 2013 season and how quickly he can move up the system and be in a Twins uniform. Mike Radcliff says, “As a newcomer to the system, we need to see and interact with him in spring training to gauge his present ability to compete. New Britain looks like the natural starting place.”
The Twins traded their starting centerfielder and leadoff hitter to the Nationals to acquire Alex Meyer. The Twins needed top-end starting pitching in the system, and Meyer certainly represents that. He is a Top 100 prospect in all rankings, appearing in the Top 50 in many.
One person who has seen Meyer pitch several times recently told me, “He (Meyer) has the best raw stuff of any guy the Twins have had in a long, long time.”