La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post-Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois-Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts. Mark Rosen borrows him occasionally for WCCO-TV.

Twins trade Denard Span for top pitching prospect

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III Updated: November 29, 2012 - 5:05 PM

The Twins have traded outfielder Denard Span to the Washington Nationals in exchange for hard-throwing righthander Alex Meyer.

Meyer, 22, is a former first round pick who went 10-6 with a 2.86 ERA in 25 starts between  Class A Hagerstown and Class A Potomac this past season.

While Meyer doesn't solve the Twins' immediate needs for starting pitching help, he certainly is an interesting prospect. He's 6 feet, 9 inches tall and has a fastball in the mid- to upper-90's. He also throws a slider that's considered above average, as well as a change up.

He's still a couple years away, but clearly has the stuff to lead a starting rotation.

The question is if the Twins still want to contend in 2013, or if they have decided to go in another direction.

Update: Twins general manager Terry Ryan said the club is not in rebuilding mode and will continue to look to add quality arms to the rotation. But Meyer gives them the potential staff ace that every team covets.

They will have to wait a couple years for Meyer to be ready, but they feel he's worth it.

"This guy, even though he's been in pro ball a short time, has first-round status," Ryan said. "He's out of the University of Kentucky, highly touted. These guys are hard to get, and if you are going to get them it's going to be in the low to mid minors/ Once they get up to Double-A or Triple-A they are almost impossible to get."

Ryan said that Meyer also throws a curveball to go with the other three pitches. Ryan said Meyer's fastball as being in the mid-90's, "but he can go up."

Span, 28, gives the Nationals the center fielder and leadoff hitter they have been after for years. Span batted .283 last season with 4 homers, 41 RBI and 17 stolen bases. He'll take a reliable glove to a team that has a chance to reach the World Series.

“His skill set is something that we were looking for, we’ve been looking for for a couple years,” Nationals GM Mike Rizzo told Washington media. “We’re talking about a true defensive ball hawk, center field type of guy with great range. Sabermetrically and with the scout’s eye, he’s a front line defensive centerfield. He’s the consummate leadoff-type of hitter. He appeals greatly to us for his skill set as an offensive player.”

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