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TwinsCentric: Should we be worried about Alex Meyer?

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: June 25, 2014 - 9:28 AM

The rosters for the MLB Futures Game were announced on Tuesday. Representing the Twins organization will be Single-A pitcher Jose Berrios and Double-A slugger Kennys Vargas.

None of Minnesota's "Big Three" will be participating. Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano obviously have been injured, and Alex Meyer -- the team's top pitching prospect and its greatest hope for a top-of-the-rotation starter -- simply isn't having a very good season.

That's fairly worrisome, especially when you look at his recent performance.

Back in late April, it appeared that Meyer had turned a corner after reportedly learning a new changeup grip from his teammates. In his fourth and fifth starts of the season for Class-AAA Rochester, the lanky right-hander was as dominant as could be, striking out a combined 22 hitters over 12 2/3 innings while allowing no runs on five hits.

At that point, Meyer was perhaps one or two more strong starts away from joining the big-league rotation and making a major impact. Yet, since that high point in his season, he has largely been a mess.

In 10 starts since the beginning of May, Meyer has a 4.43 ERA and 1.54 WHIP, and has completed six innings in an outing only twice. He continues to miss bats with his high-end stuff (he ranks second in the International League with 83 strikeouts) but that's really the only aspect of his game that you could point at as being close to MLB-ready.

The short outings are the biggest red flag. As a 24-year-old top prospect, Meyer is at a point where you'd like to see him facing some big-league competition, but the Twins aren't going to call up a guy who is routinely unable to complete five or six innings at Triple-A. Granted, his pitch counts are being watched closely, but he hasn't been effective. In his last three starts, the righty has failed to even reach the fifth.

This raises an uncomfortable question: Is everything OK physically?

It's hard not to wonder, considering that Meyer missed two months last year with shoulder soreness. Right now, he's laboring through short outings, struggling to throw strikes and uncharacteristically giving up bunches of hits. In his latest start for Rochester, he coughed up multiple home runs for just the second time in his pro career.

This is just strange to see from a player of his caliber. If his problems are mechanical, the coaching staff has got to find a way to get him straightened out. If there's an injury at play, well, that's just beyond depressing considering the way things have already played out this year with Sano and Buxton.

On the bright side, the Twins have had plenty of positive developments down on the farm. Berrios, who has been absolutely inhuman down in Ft. Myers (2.05 ERA, 10/6 K/9), ranks highly among them. Trevor May also continues to pitch well in Triple-A, providing another MLB-ready option with upside and making Meyer's setbacks a little easier to stomach.

But, as I've often stated, I believe that Meyer is the single most important prospect in the organization, so as long as he continues to scuffle through short outings, it's going to be tough to get excited about the Twins' short-term outlook.

They need more front-end talent in the rotation and nobody fits that profile better than a healthy, effective Alex Meyer. Despite some flashes, we simply haven't seen that guy consistently.

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