One of the stories people will tell about Alex Meyer is that he coincidentally signed for the exact same amount offered him out of High School by the Red Sox (a whopping $2 million in the 20th rd) before taking up with the Nationals in 2011. The other story they'll probably tell you is he's the heir apparent to a massive car dealership in Indianapolis (I guess if this whole baseball thing doesn't work out...). The story I'm here to tell you is about the Grade-A filth that is his pitching arsenal. In honor of this column, I tuned in for Meyer’s start this past Saturday vs. Phillies Class AAA affiliate Lehigh Valley, and have included a number of GIFs from said start. He threw 5.1 innings of 1-run ball, striking out 5 and walking none. After two starts, Meyer is the owner of a cool 11-1 SO/BB ratio and 2.61 ERA in 10.1 innings; not bad for a kid with "control issues."
Pulling back the curtain….
Meyer’s fastball is a true blue chip offering, without question one of the best in the minor leagues. He consistently throws in the mid-to-high 90’s, and at 6’9" Meyer has incredible tilt with plus-plus release distance. Legend has it that in the 2013 Arizona Fall League (AFL), Meyer emphatically hit 100 MPH 5 times in the same inning. Unimpressed? Because, wait for it, there's more: he can also mix in a wily two-seamer (92-95) that has excellent run and sink. The elite fastball is the nucleus of his arsenal, and if he can throw it for strikes at the highest level, he will be very successful.
When doing my research, I came across conflicting reports classifying Meyer’s breaking pitch. Baseball Prospectus lists it as a slider, and Baseball America a knuckle curve. After further review, I’ve confirmed that the pitch is in fact a knuckle curve. It’s often mistaken for a slider because it’s thrown in the mid 80’s, atypical of the curveball variety. The first time he pulled it out Saturday, I accidentally burped an expletive in shock, which quickly transformed to awe. It has sharp two-plane break; a real swing and misser. What impressed me most was his ability to front door it to right handed batters and back door it to lefties, not something you typically see of a young flamethrower. Check out the front door cookie he breaks off for Phillies top prospect Maikel Franco.
With no radar gun readings, it was difficult to distinguish the two-seam fastball from the change. They have similar movement, but the change is a few ticks slower, clocking anywhere from 88-92 according to reports. Some scouts call it a future plus offering, which I believe given the majestic fastball it'll be paired with. Meyers arm speed with the pitch was inconsistent in 2013, and one of his biggest developmental challenges this year will be finding said consistency.
Mechanics, Makeup, Fantasy:
Meyer is a commanding presence on the mound- think right-handed Chris Sale. And depending on who you talk to, he's either destined for the top of a major league rotation, or an über elite bullpen weapon. Those in the bullpen camp argue his command, injury history (he missed 10 weeks last year with shoulder soreness), and slow speed to the plate (1.3-1.4 seconds) scream RELIEF PITCHER. Those in the starter camp believe Meyer's plus mechanics and natural athleticism - especially for his size- will allow him to corral his gangly limbs and repeat his delivery enough to make it as a starter. Believers also point to the fact that Meyer has 3 above average major league pitches (right now!), a feat many current major league starters can't claim for themselves. For fantasy, Meyer is a safe investment regardless of future role. As a reliever, he has top 5-10 closer upside, and as a starter, he could peak as a top 20-25 SP; one who provides lots of K's, albeit at the expense of WHIP. If Meyer keeps up his current pace at Rochester, he'll likely be one of the first big prospects we see in the big leagues this season.