On Wednesday of this past week, Twins pitching prospect Alex Meyer dismantled the Rays’ Triple-A affiliate Durham Bulls, striking out eight over six innings of work while not allowing either a walk or a run.
With Phil Hughes apparently sidelined for some time after absorbing an Adam Dunn projectile missile in combination with the inconsistent performance from the starting five that now consists of non-prospect arms, it is hard not to ask “When is it Meyer’s time?”
The Twins have been understandably protective of their top pitching prospect based on his injury at the end of last season and the fact that he was limited in innings. Typically, organizations have a progression for how they would like to build a pitcher’s arm strength and he threw less than 100 innings in 2013 between Double-A and the Arizona Fall League. But based on Boston’s Will Middlebrooks’ early season scouting report after facing Meyer in Pawtucket, Meyer has more than enough weaponry to be hurling in the big leagues.
Admittedly, several comments from the front office made in reference to Meyer’s command and pitch counts (the former is the reason the latter gets so high so quick), that he would have troubles pitching deep in to games. While a fair assessment given his walk rate, Meyer still could be learning at this level.
And here’s another reason why I want to see him dabble here sooner rather than later: His ability to make adjustments.
On June 2 in Rochester, Meyer surrendered this majestic blast to Gwinnett’s Mark Hamilton, a 29-year-old first baseman who had fewer than a season’s worth of plate appearances at the major league level with the St. Louis Cardinals. The ball, one can presume, was eventually stopped in its flight when it was shot down by the Canadian border guard.
Note the location of of the 0-0 pitch: A fastball thigh-high and inside. Even with Meyer’s impressive velocity, this is a location that plenty of left-handed hitters love to do damage on.
To be fair, Meyer was falling apart at this juncture of the game. After allowing a double that was considered aided by one of his outfielders, Meyer plunked the batter in front of Hamilton, setting up first-and-third in the fifth inning. Perhaps based on the recent hit batter, the plan was to hopefully reestablish the strike zone or maybe it was that with a fastball that averages mid-to-upper 90s, they figured the could fire it past the aging minor leaguer. Regardless of why, the results were disappointing.
In his next time through the rotation, five days later Meyer would once again draw the Gwinnett Braves, this time in Georgia. With a three-run lead and two runners on base in the bottom of the sixth, Meyer would face Hamilton.
It is this match-up, deep in the ballgame, that shows why Meyer is more of a pitcher and less of a thrower. One who, if it were not for the organization’s inning limitations, may already be throwing bullets with the Minnesota Twins.
Unlike his first pitch in his previous start, Meyer kept his fastball on the other side of the plate, but a little too far for ball one:
With his second offering, he is able to command the outer-half of the plate with his fastball. There is little Hamilton can do but watch it blaze by. This, my friends, is a pitcher’s pitch:
The count now even at 1-1, Meyer unleashes his knee-buckling knucklecurve which stays up in the zone just enough for Hamilton to yank foul as he is unable to stay back after seeing two very good fastballs. To this point in the count, Meyer has not gone back inside with anything of significant velocity:
Now with two-strikes, Meyer attempts to put the lefty away with a backdoor breaking ball. Like the last one, it too stays up just enough for Hamilton to fight off and stay alive:
Finally, and here is where it becomes serious business, following two offspeed pitches Meyer rears back and gases a fastball up-and-away that Hamilton is reduced to rubble simply trying to stay alive:
The sequence demonstrates why Meyer could be an extremely good pitcher for the Twins. At this point, most prospect-philes project him as a potential number two starter in a strong rotation (not like a Kevin Correia number two starter, mind you). He has some flaws that the Twins are hoping he will work past, including his consistency in his mechanics and location as well as refining a changeup that would give him yet another weapon.
He clearly has the stuff to make an impact but the Twins do not want to pile too much workload on him -- which is one of the reasons he has not made the jump. Still, seeing his ability to adjust against an opponent is reassuring that he has both the physical and mental makeup for the next big step.