July 9, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; USA pitcher Alex Meyer (17) delivers a pitch in the seventh inning of the 2012 All Star Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Bright Futures: #4 - Alex Meyer

To keep up on who has been featured so far in my “Bright Futures” series, click on the word “link” next to each name which will take you to the full article for every player.

Offense sells tickets; defense wins championships.

There has been some debate over who actually said this unforgettable phrase first, but to sports fans, it is an iconic saying which tends to hold true throughout sports.

  • Football – The team who wins the Super Bowl has scored on average 25.59 points per game throughout the season and given up 15.86 points per game, whereas the Super Bowl loser has averaged 25.67 points per game and given up 17 points per game during the season (stats per Kenneth Arthur’s article). If so facto, defense wins championships.
  • Hockey – Last year, the Los Angeles Kings won Lord Stanley’s Cup despite being the 8th seed from the Western Conference. Clearly, the Kings were not the most dominant regular season team, but throughout the playoffs the Kings were far and away the most unstoppable defensive team. The King’s goaltender, Johnathan Quick, was given the Conn Smythe Trophy which is given to the Most Valuable Player of the playoffs. Considering the goalie in hockey is the last and most important line of defense, Quick helped prove that defense wins championships.
  • Baseball – Baseball teams have always emphasized the importance of a strong pitching staff, solid defense, and clutch hitting as being key cogs in turning the championship wheel. What some people forget, is that pitchers are similar to a hockey goaltender – striking out a guy for the third out with bases loaded is like a goalie not allowing a goal during a 5-on-3 penalty kill. Pitchers are the first, most important, and sometimes the last line of defense in baseball. Goalies in hockey get the credit for a team’s shutout and pitchers get the credit for complete game shutouts/no-hitters/perfect games. Last year, 7 of the 10 playoff teams were in the top 10 for lowest team ERA throughout the regular season and the San Francisco Giants had the most complete pitching staff up and down their lineup throughout the playoffs which landed them the World Series title. Defense wins championships.

July 9, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; USA pitcher Alex Meyer (17) delivers a pitch in the seventh inning of the 2012 All Star Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The proof is obvious throughout history, defense is the biggest component in winning championships and the Minnesota Twins are not ignorant to this ideology. The Twins have been near the bottom of team ERA in all of baseball the last two seasons, and they have not been remotely close to a playoff birth in either of those seasons. In order to regain a competitive edge in the American League Central, the Twins had to make some changes to their pitching staff which would not only allow an immediate bounce back from ineptitude, but one that would act as spring board back into playoff regularity. Through trades and free agency, the Twins brought in pitchers Vance Worley, Trevor May, Kevin Correia, and Mike Pelfrey, but the most intriguing arm brought in is flame-thrower Alex Meyer.

Alex Meyer is a 23-year-old right handed pitcher from Greensburg, Indiana. He played his college ball at the University of Kentucky and was drafted 23rd overall in the 2011 MLB Draft to the Washington Nationals. After a successful season in his first full year of professional ball, Meyer was rated by MLB.com as the Nationals No. 2 prospect.  He posted impressive numbers of 10-6, 2.86 ERA 139 SO 45 BB in 2012 which definitely garnered the interest of many teams in baseball, but especially the Minnesota Twins.

The Twins have been without a true ace since Johan Santana was traded to the New York Mets in 2008, and were in desperate need for an upgrade. To fix this issue, the Twins sent outfielder Denard Span over to the Nationals in a trade for the 6’9″ 220 lb. right-handed power pitcher, Meyer. MLB.com‘s 2012 Top 100 Prospects list had Meyer ranked No. 50 out of all minor leaguers last year, and for good reason. He is capable of throwing a heavily sinking fastball comfortably in the mid-90s and another straight fastball that will be cranked up close to 100 mph. Couple those two versions of his fastball with an 87-91 mph devastating slider and an up-and-coming change up, and the Twins definitely have their ace waiting in the wings. He projects out to be a good No. 2 pitcher in the rotation and potentially a No. 1 as he matures. The expectations are high for Meyer and the Twins future rotation, if he can live up to these expectations then he will make Opening Day starts for years to come.

Projection: I am a huge fan of Alex Meyer, and although other Twins fans were peeved to see a fan favorite in Denard Span be traded, I was elated knowing the organization acted when the bidding was hot for a player of Span’s ability. Who knows what other offers were on the table, but to get a power pitcher with as high a ceiling as Meyer’s is a job well done for the organization. Meyer’s frame is still a little lanky, being only 220 pounds in a 6’9″ frame, but he has room to grow into that frame and could fill out to be an absolute workhorse on the mound, a la Justin Verlander. Verlander is one of a kind, but if Meyer fills out then he could be similar to the back-to-back AL Cy Young award winner by cranking fastballs in upper-90s regularly with punch out off-speed pitches as well. One knock on Meyer though, is his sporadic control. Some games he will be on point, striking out 10+ in 6+ innings and other games walk 4 or 5 guys in 4+ innings. Some seasoning this year in the minors will greatly help his command and hopefully will help him get ready for the majors sooner rather than later. I hope he starts the year in Double-A New Britain coming out of Spring Training, but there’s a good chance he will begin where he left off last year, in High-A ball. The Twins have been known to baby prospects along in their quest for the majors, but Meyer is a big, strong-bodied starting pitcher and the Twins need for top-tier starting pitching is insurmountable without him. 2013 will be a big year for him and the organization, I can see Meyer starting in High-A Ft. Myers but ending the year in Triple-A Rochester, which would be a big jump. Not only will he be blowing away better competition, but if he ends the year in Triple-A then it would be almost impossible to not see him in the 2014 starting rotation for the Minnesota Twins. My fingers are crossed for this scenario to come to fruition, it will be fun watching this flame-thrower hurl 100 mph fastballs and spin 90 mph sliders towards the dish for years to come.

Twitter: Also, follow Alex Meyer on twitter! @Meyer17A

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