'He's earned it': No. 2 prospect Meyer arrives in Miami

July 15th, 2022

MIAMI -- If you ask Max Meyer, he has been big league ready since his days at Woodbury High School in Minnesota. His time officially arrives on Saturday, when he makes his MLB debut against the Phillies at loanDepot park. First pitch is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. ET.

Meyer, who was supposed to pitch for Triple-A Jacksonville in Syracuse on Friday night, instead woke up at 4 a.m. Friday to begin a travel day to South Florida. Less than two hours after his arrival, he walked to left field with the rest of Miami's pitching staff wearing matching Sandy Alcantara T-shirts for the ace's final first-half start. After shagging during batting practice, he spoke to local media about his dream coming true.

"I've been talking to the guys, and they're telling me it's just another game, it's just in a bigger stage," Meyer said. "So just go and compete and do what you've always done throughout your career. I'm just going to keep my mindset as that."

In a video posted to the Marlins' Twitter account late Thursday night, MLB Pipeline's No. 21 overall prospect and the club's No. 2 prospect is told he will be headed to Miami. Meyer will need to be added to the 40-man roster, which has an open spot after reliever Louis Head was claimed off waivers by the Orioles on Tuesday.

The Marlins (43-45) are three games back of the third National League Wild Card spot entering the first half's final weekend. Two-time All-Star Alcantara started the series opener, with Meyer lined up for Saturday and left-hander Trevor Rogers pushed back to Sunday.

"Hopefully he's going to be able to go out and keep us in games," manager Don Mattingly said. "We can't expect him to come out here and think he's going to be anything like Sandy or somebody. If he is unbelievably great, that'd be great. But Sandy wasn't Sandy when he first got here either, so you expect some bumps in the road. But you know he's got the stuff, and you feel like he's got the makeup and that he's as ready as he can be at this point to be able to make the start."

Miami selected Meyer third overall in the 2020 MLB Draft out of the University of Minnesota. In his first professional season, he pitched in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game and earned Double-A South Most Outstanding Pitcher honors after compiling a 2.41 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 101 innings spanning 20 starts. Meyer continued that dominance in a two-start Triple-A stint before the '21 campaign ended.

The 23-year-old Meyer picked up right where he left off in 2022, posting a 1.72 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 31 1/3 frames through his first six starts. But he was uncharacteristically off in his next two outings, diagnosed with right ulnar nerve irritation that sidelined him for a month.

"I feel like maybe early on I was kind of ready to get up early after I started the year off hot, and then that injury happened," Meyer said. "That kind of changed my whole perspective. 'Whatever happens, happens. I've just got to stare where my feet are,' and I believe I'm mentally the strongest I've ever been right now. So I'm happy that it's gone the way it's gone."

At the time of Meyer's selection, his slider was the consensus best pitch in the 2020 Draft. His fastball sits at 92-95 mph and can reach 100 mph, according to MLB Pipeline's scouting report. The question mark was his developing changeup. That would help determine whether he could remain a starting pitcher or eventually become a lights-out closer. This season, Meyer has increased his fastball usage and located better. He had grown comfortable turning to his changeup in any count. His slider was still elite.

Though the Marlins' rotation had spots open up when Jesús Luzardo and Cody Poteet landed on the injured list, and Elieser Hernandez was demoted, the organization didn't rush Meyer.

"They probably could have [called him up] and let him learn some of the things that he still needed to learn and check some boxes off down there," pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. said. "There's a lot of moving parts and a lot of things that we look at to where we feel like he's ready physically, mentally. Getting him into a routine and starting to build and get some of those innings and pitches under his belt was important.

"The fact is the pitches up here, the weight of those and the after-effects of recovering and having to go through the lineups that they have to go here, it's not a forgiving league. We had to let that process kind of run its course down there, too. He's going to have enough innings to be able to pitch in our rotation and to put himself and the ballclub in a position to try to win games. He's here to help us win ballgames. We're going to continue to develop him, and he's going to learn all that part. But he's earned it, too. He's done enough there. He needs another challenge."

That falls in line with the video announcing his highly anticipated arrival to The Show. Asked by Triple-A manager Daren Brown what his first thought was upon being drafted two years ago, Meyer replied: "Win a ring in the big leagues."

"We knew how competitive and tenacious he was on the field, and as he's developed over the last couple of years, nothing he's done surprised me," senior director of amateur scouting DJ Svihlik said on Wednesday. "That includes when he hits some bats out there. I understand that's part of what his fastball is. I'm not surprised that his changeup is developing into a weapon. I'm not surprised that he's competing really, really hard. We knew that about him. So I still think when I look out at Max, I see a guy that pitches in a playoff. I know we like to use words like No. 1 starter, No. 2 starter, No. 3 starter, so on and so forth. Playoff pitchers, we define it that way in the amateur Draft. We see Max as a playoff starter."