The Minnesota Twins are now a couple of days into Spring Training for the 2015 Major League Baseball season. One of the most closely monitored storylines continues to be who will fill out the final starting rotation spot. Many Twins fans are hoping it will be 25-year-old prospect Alex Meyer, but what exactly is holding him back?
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Rated in the top 50 by many prospect lists heading into the 2015 season, Alex Meyer is still viewed as a potential frontline starter. Unfortunately, at age 25, time is running out for him to put things together. Although Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson didn’t get his career off the ground until his age 25 season, the list of success stories starting that late is not incredibly long. For Meyer, the missing pieces seem to be relatively small, but are well within his reach.
Last season, Meyer struck out an impressive 10.6 batters per nine innings. In line with his career numbers (10.4 K/9), Meyer would provide an immediate strikeout boost the Twins rotation. Firing in the mid to high 90’s with an imposing frame should make him a tough pitcher to hit even for major league batter. Therein lies the problem, major league batters won’t need to hit Meyer if he struggles to get the ball over the plate. In 2014, Meyer walked 4.4 batters per nine innings. That mark was a new career high (or low depending on how you look at it) and was nearly a walk higher than his career 3.7 BB/9 mark.
Contributing into missing the strike zone has been Meyer’s lack of confidence in his repertoire. Separating good pitchers from great ones are typically the amount of pitches they can get across the plate. Meyer has shown he has good life on his fastball, and pairing with an impressive curveball he has a good start. What Meyer is missing is that third pitch, a changeup, and it’s something he’s working on.
As Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com reports, Meyer sought the help of Triple-A Rochester teammates Yohan Pino and Deolis Guerra a season ago. Both pitchers helped Meyer develop a new grip on the off speed pitch that has his comfort level slowly rising. While Meyer is still not where he needs to be with the changeup, the hope is that a full Spring Training with pitching coach Neil Allen will be enough to bridge the gap.
There’s no doubt that a talent with the ceiling of Alex Meyer can eventually master that crucial third pitch, but the clock may be ticking against him when it comes to his rotation inclusion. If Meyer can show an advanced command of the strike zone, and prove that he can utilize his third pitch at the major league level, he should be expected to beat out the competition.
While Tommy Milone and Mike Pelfrey look to show they still have what it takes to start at the major league level, both Meyer and Trevor May are looking to prove that their stuff is quality enough to begin their journey. Of the group, Meyer appears to have the competition in the palm of his hand, but it remains up to him whether or not he can master it in time.