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Prospect Preview: Alex Meyer

July 9, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; USA pitcher Alex Meyer (17) delivers a pitch in the seventh inning of the 2012 All Star Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE
July 9, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; USA pitcher Alex Meyer (17) delivers a pitch in the seventh inning of the 2012 All Star Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE

While he entered prospect-hounds consciousness in 2008, Alex Meyer made everyone wait to see how he performed as a professional until 2012 by turning down a reported $2 million offer from the Boston Red Sox to attend the University of Kentucky for three years. Meyer entered the draft after two down years at Kentucky and one up year, and the Washington Nationals pulled the trigger at pick 23 in the first round, matching the $2 million that Boston offered three years prior. Meyer accepted this time, signing too late to make his professional debut. That has come in 2012 where he has excelled enough to see a promotion to Hi-A.

Read more on Meyer after the jump...

Meyer opened his professional career with Lo-A Hagerstown, racking up 107 strikeouts over 90 Lo-A innings compared to 34 walks. After 18 starts at Lo-A he earned a promotion to Hi-A where he's made five starts, going 29 total innings. In that time he's posted a 1.24 ERA and a 2.23 FIP, besting his 3.10 ERA and 2.63 FIP from Lo-A. While small sample sizes certainly come into play when slicing up his season, and even using the combined stats we don't even have a full season of statistics on him, it is certainly encouraging that he has continued to harness his impressive stuff and prove that the corner he turned as a Junior was no fluke. Meyer has actually improved his K/BB ratio while jumping up a level, going from 3.15 at Lo-A to 4.33 at Hi-A. That has come with a reduction in his K/9 from 10.70 to 8.07, but an absolutely massive drop in BB/9 from 3.40 to 1.86. To see a 6'9 pitcher who has had a history of control issues (stemming from impressive stuff and trouble repeating mechanics) to jump up a level and refine his control is a dream scenario for any parent club or prospective (get it?) fantasy owner.

If you like heat and plenty of it, Meyer is your man (also, try a sauna or DC in August). Standing 6'9, Meyer can reach triple digits when throwing in relief, as he proved in his two thirds of an inning stint in the MLB Futures game in Kansas City. As a starter he features a four pitch arsenal, beginning with a mid-90s fastball, but also mixing in a low-90s two-seamer with heavy movement, an out-pitch slider, and he shows a feel for a change up that is often too firm, but it is developing. He is a classic power pitcher, Meyer's fastball(s) represents his best pitch(es), and his slider, thrown with a knuckle-curve grip will flash plus, but has yet to feature any type of consistency. Meyer makes good use of his height, getting impressive plane on his pitches and shortening the time hitters have to react to his already impressive fastball. Some have called for him to move to the bullpen where his command and control would be less of an issue, as would the development of his change up. Meyer's impressive debut season has quieted those calls, though some scouts are still inclined to believe that he will end up as a dominating closer rather than a frontline starter. Mike Newman of FanGraphs provided a recent look at Meyer (video included!) in a May post.

As is, the Nationals will rightly leave Meyer in the rotation where he has the best chance of returning the most value on their investment, but it's clear that plan B would still be an attractive one, and I wouldn't doubt his chances of success in a bullpen role. While his ceiling is at the front of a rotation, and his floor appears to be the back end of a bullpen, his probable outcome is somewhere in the middle. I see him as a mid-rotation starter who can eat innings and shows the promise to be more, but will have enough control issues that he won't ascend to a number one or two starter. Those labels are certainly on the spectrum of results for Meyer, but I'm taking the safe route in projecting him short of that. Some might say that projecting him as a starter is risky business given his size and trouble repeating his mechanics. His fantasy prospects are bright pretty much anywhere along the spectrum. Even the probable outcome I assigned him would have plenty of value - think Brandon Morrow before this season - and if he flames out as a starter, his stuff should be enough to carry the day at the back end of a bullpen.

Source Material
Baseball America
Mike Newman/FanGraphs
Kevin Goldstein/Baseball Prospectus