Alex Meyer was a first-round draft pick of the Washington Nationals in 2011. He had turned down big dollars from the Boston Red Sox as a 20th-round pick out of high school in 2008. The right-hander dominated at the University of Kentucky, where he struck out 110 in 101 innings his junior year. In his first professional season, he threw 129 innings between A and high-A, striking out 26.7 percent of hitters, while walking only 8.6 percent. In the offseason, the Nationals dealt Meyer to the Minnesota Twins for outfielder Denard Span.
Despite a shoulder injury that limited him to 78 1/3 innings, Meyer was solid in 2013. He spent most of the season in double-A. Meyer continued to show flashes of dominance, striking out 30 percent of hitters while walking 9.6 percent. With his strong performance, he managed to climb into most midseason top 50 prospect lists.
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To make up for some of the time lost to injury, the Twins sent Meyer to the Arizona Fall League for additional work. He impressed against some tough competition, striking out 25 in 23 innings with only six walks. Meyer’s fastball was consistently in the 95-97 range, and reached 98. When hitters did make contact with his sinker, they tended to pound it into the ground.
At 6 foot 9 and 220 pounds, Meyer is a huge man on the mound. His height allows him to get great downward plane on his pitches. Combine that with a heavy sinker, and you have the makings of a groundball machine. He generates most of his velocity from his upper body. Not surprisingly, his delivery tends to be stiff and top-heavy, and his shoulder can open up early, causing him to throw across his body. While repeatability and consistent velocity tend to be a concern with very tall pitchers, Meyer seems to have improved in that area, at least with regard to his showing in the AFL.
His fastball clearly is his best pitch. The two-seamer, which he throws the majority of the time, has excellent movement. The four-seamer has good backspin and can be used up in the zone. Harnessing his fastball movement will be essential for Meyer to be a starter at the next level. Meyer is not just a hard thrower, his breaking ball also is very good. At times, when he takes something off, it looks more like a curveball. It has two-plane break, and missed a lot of bats in the AFL. Every so often, he’ll mix in a change-up. At 86-88, it’s a very hard change. Overall, it’s an inconsistent offering, but it shows potential with its late drop.
In an organization hurting for pitchers, Alex Meyer could be a godsend. He has as much upside as any pitcher from the 2011 draft not named Gerrit Cole or Jose Fernandez. If he stays healthy and continues to improve his command, he could be a contributor in the Twins’ rotation by late 2014 or early 2015.