Twins to call up top pitching prospect Meyer
It might be not how Alex Meyer thought he'd get to the big leagues, but the big right-hander has finally arrived.
Ranked as the Twins' No. 3 prospect by MLB.com, Meyer will be called up before Friday's game against the Brewers, replacing right-handed reliever Michael Tonkin, who was optioned to Triple-A Rochester on Wednesday.
MLB.com's No. 23-ranked prospect had been developing as a starting pitcher ever since the Nationals drafted him in the first round out of Kentucky in 2011. Meyer was later acquired by Minnesota in November 2012 for Denard Span.
With command always being an issue -- 3.9 walks per nine in his career -- there was the question of whether the 25-year-old could remain in a rotation long-term.
It looked like that answer might be yes, as Meyer reached Triple-A in 2014 and pitched in the SiriusXM Futures Game at Target Field. He competed for a spot in the Twins' rotation this spring, but he ended back with Rochester in the International League. After eight starts, a 7.09 ERA, a .325 batting average against and 24 walks in 39 1/3 innings, Minnesota decided it was time to see what the 6-foot-9 right-hander could do out of the bullpen.
To say the least, it's been a very good move. Meyer has made nine relief outings spanning 17 innings. In that time, he's yielded just 12 hits (.188 batting average against), and he's allowed one earned run (0.53 ERA). Meyer continued to miss bats with 20 strikeouts, and his walk rate of 3.18 is much more palatable than the 5.49 rate he had as a starter this season.
Even as a starter, Meyer relied on his fastball that reached the upper-90s consistently. Along with his biting power slider, those two offerings alone have helped him strike out 10.3 per nine in his career, especially coming downhill from his frame. Meyer's changeup has improved over the years, and it could be a pitch he can call upon against left-handed hitters on occasion. He could shelve the pitch in relief, but it was command, not his offspeed stuff, that created his biggest stumbling block, and it appears it's not as much of a problem in shorter stints.
The Twins' bullpen is 12th in the American League in ERA this season (3.81), and their relievers have recorded the fewest strikeouts in the league (141 in 212 1/3 total relief innings). Meyer should be able to bolster the 'pen immediately and be the kind of power-armed reliever who can miss bats in crucial situations. He could eventually develop into a devastating setup man, one capable of pitching more than one inning thanks to his time as a starter.