Meyer: 'I'd love to be on that team next year'

November 3rd, 2021

There came a time during 's stellar debut season when the monotony got to him.

Following the same daily routine for six months straight will do that to a person, even one of the game's top prospects (Meyer is ranked at No. 30 overall, per MLB Pipeline). Both the fire and adrenaline that fuel a competitor like Meyer went missing. He struggled as a result, giving up nine runs over eight innings during a two-start stretch in early September.

A power pitcher, Meyer found himself trying to paint rather than attack the zone. He snapped out of it on Sept. 15, when he limited Rocket City to four unearned runs in six innings. Miami's No. 3 prospect struck out seven batters and issued no walks in what would be his 20th and final start at the Double-A level.

"It was late in the season," Meyer recently told "I was kind of trying to blow up the zone, blow up the spots and really trust in all my pitches. I felt like I was really good that day. All my stuff was really sharp, too. My slider was sitting 90 [mph] like where it should be, and then after that, I kind of kept carrying that into Triple-A, too, where I felt like my slider was sharp. I'm just going to carry that into the offseason and remember when I start throwing again that I've just got to pound zone and just let the stuff explode out of my hand."

Despite the blip, Meyer certainly has lived up to the hype as the third overall selection in the 2020 MLB Draft. Since then, he has participated in the Marlins' alternate training site twice, the fall instructional league, Spring Training and the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. As a member of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, the right-hander posted a Double-A South-low 2.41 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP in his first professional season. He fanned 113 batters (second) in 101 innings (fourth) en route to earning recognition as Double-A South Pitcher of the Year and MLB Pipeline's Marlins pitching prospect of the year.

Meyer, who turns 23 in March, relies on a four-seam fastball (93-97 mph) and a slider (low-90s) with 65 grades on the 20-80 scouting scale. But it was his mid-80s changeup (55 grade) that took his electric stuff to another level. Meyer didn't need to turn to that third pitch during his collegiate career, but the more he used it in 2021, the more effective it became.

"I think it was very mature of him that he bought into using his changeup, because he understands that he's going to need that pitch in the big leagues," said Geoff DeGroot, Miami's director of Minor League operations. "He's going to need it to be successful. And ultimately, we're trying to develop him to be ready to compete in the Major Leagues, to perform at the Major League level, not just dominate Double-A with sliders."

That rang true, as Meyer earned a promotion to Triple-A Jacksonville following that Sept. 15 outing for Penascola. In his first start, he set a career high with 10 strikeouts across five innings. He followed that up with another seven punchouts over five frames in his last outing of 2021.

Meyer proved he can dominate at any level so long as he sticks to his strengths. That wake-up call at Double-A will serve as a reminder when he comes close to veering off track again.

"He finished the season in a better place than he started it, which, again, that first year in professional baseball for guys is a long year," DeGroot said. "The fact that he really ran through the finish line and finished as strong as he did at a higher level than he was pitching at all year really just speaks to how prepared Max was coming into the season physically. Just can't say enough about the work he did this year, and I think he's got a lot of momentum and is in a really good place going into the 2022 season."

Speaking of which, Meyer sees his brief Triple-A stint as just another step toward his 2022 goals: reaching the big leagues, making an immediate impact and staying up there. It's oh so close that he can taste it. The trust the organization showed in him tells Meyer as much.

"I'm excited because I hear all these talks about, 'We're going to go all in' and, 'We're going to try to make a push and win and get some big pieces,'" Meyer said. "So I'd love to start. I'd love to be on that team and give the team the best chance to win next year."