Alex Meyer is pitching today, but no unfortunately it isn’t for the Minnesota Twins. Meyer, the Twins 3rd ranked prospect, is taking the hill for the Rochester Red Wings for his sixth start of the season. He’s only notched one win but he’s sitting with a 2.7 ERA and an absolutely glorious 11.8 Strikeouts per 9 innings. The best of all however, and the thing that’s drawing the most fan attention, is his last two starts in which he has allowed a combined 5 hits, zero runs and struck out 22 batters in 12.2 innings. With the major league starting staff struggling to put together consistent outings, Meyer is receiving some calls for promotion as soon as possible.
When the Twins traded Denard Span two years ago, they received a fire ball pitcher from the Washington Nationals who had never pitched above High Single A. It was a concerted effort by the Twins organization to address a serious deficiency of strikeout pitchers after their “pitch to contact” strategy ran dry of capable pitchers. After an injury shortened 2013, Meyer is back and is pitching like the potential star that the Twins hoped for; a towering staff ace who could light up opposing teams with high 90’s gas and a knee-buckling curve.
Some fans want him promoted right away but like most prospects, there are tons of factors that will play into when he might make his major league debut, the biggest one being service time. Like Kyle Gibson last year, the best bet on when the Twins will call up Meyer is in mid-June because even though they’ve already assured a seventh year of player control, they can avoid Super Two status by waiting. Long story short, Super Two status would make Meyer eligible for arbitration four times instead of three, which essentially just means paying him more money. Since there is rarely a better bargain in the MLB than a star player during their rookie contract, service time manipulation is a league-wide phenomenon.
However, Alex Meyer still can benefit from pitching in the International League for another month or so. Meyer’s recent strikeout burst has been credited to changing the way that he throws his changeup, from a circle change to a three-finger change. As the last Twins strikeout machine, Johan Santana depended on his killer changeup to rack up swing and misses and Meyer uses his changeup to keep hitters off his fastball until he can use his curve to generate strikeouts. Since it isn’t his “strikeout” pitch, Meyer needed to be able to locate his change to get ahead in the count and apparently didn’t have great command with his old grip. No one can argue with the results his new grip is bringing in and having a couple more starts at the same level can only increase his confidence with setting up batters and then bringing the hammer down on them.
Triple A pitchers Deolis Guerra and Yohan Pino have been credited with teaching Meyer his new changeup grip and that is awesome that the two older guys took the time to pass on their knowledge. However something that hasn’t shown up in any of the reports about this new grip is the role Red Wings pitching coach Marty Mason had in this adjustment. I might be grasping at nothing here but does anyone else find it odd or even disturbing that the person the Twins organization pays to coach our pitches isn’t credited with teaching our top pitching prospect a changeup that could potentially transform his entire career? Giving Mason the benefit of the doubt, maybe he sent Meyer to Guerra and Pino to work on his change, but if he didn’t prompt the change to Meyer’s change, then the organization has a serious coaching problem. The Minor Leagues is almost as much about tinkering and perfecting approaches and it is with results, and it’s the job of those coaches to put forward the best product that they can.
Fair or unfair coaching rants aside, Alex Meyer looks more and more legit with every start that he makes and if he continues to put up dominant performances he will force the Twins hand in calling him up. However, because of injuries in 2013, Meyer only pitched 104.1 innings spread between Rookie ball, Double A and the Arizona Fall League so expect lots of inning limits talk to come with his eventual promotion to the Twins. But no matter how many innings we see Alex Meyer pitch for the Minnesota Twins in 2014, each one could come with electric stuff that Twins fans have been deprived of for many many years.