Both ESPN.com and Baseball America have the Washington Nationals selecting Alex Meyer, a right handed pitcher out of Kentucky, with their sixth overall pick in next months first year player draft. Keith Law of ESPN Insider writes:
“Washington originally thought they’d get Meyer with the 23rd pick, which they got as compensation for Adam Dunn signing with the White Sox, but Meyer has pitched way too well down the stretch for that to happen. If they want Meyer they’d have to take him here. Other names in this spot include Hultzen, Bauer, or Barnes if they get this far, but they wouldn’t do Bundy, Sonny Gray, or Taylor Jungmann. I’ve also heard the Nats on outfielder Brian Goodwin with the 23rd pick.”
We heard earlier this week from the Nationals director of amateur scouting Kris Kline that Washington is likely to focus on pitching with their first several picks, and based on the comments above it seems like there is pretty good intelligence that Mike Rizzo and the Nationals scouting department are high on Meyer. There will likely be some surprises in the top ten picks given the great amount of talent in this year’s draft, but unless UVA’s Danny Hultzen or Rice’s Anthony Rendon are available, I think it’s close to a lock at this point that they will go with the hurler from Kentucky.
Meyer has seen his stock skyrocket this spring because he has finally been able to put his incredible stuff to work. He has long been on professional scout’s radar as he throws consistently in the mid 90’s with what has been described as a hard biting slider, but even through his sophomore year, and in the Cape Cod League this summer, he has not been able to harness it into becoming a dominant on the mound presence. For amateur baseball players, though, a few months can make a world of difference. After reporting back to school and working on his command, he has seemingly turned it around. In 13 starts Meyer is 6-5 with a 3.06 ERA, with two shutouts and 101 strikeouts in 94 innings pitched.
Meyer appears to be a potential poor man’s right-handed Randy Johnson. At 6 foot 9 he reportedly throws with an unorthodox low three-quarter delivery in the mid 90’s fastball that scouts say has a lot of movement, making it very tough for right handed hitters to hit. Scouts also say he has a “wipeout slider”. The consensus seems to be that if he can improve to have average control at a Major League level, he could be a number one starter.
We often see control problems in tall pitchers. It can be difficult to get all those limbs to go in all the right places 100-120 times per night. Some pitchers figure it out and have massively successful careers because their late release point makes it difficult for hitters to figure out what’s coming. Other’s go the way of Daniel Cabrerra, who have amazing stuff but just never put it together.
Last season Meyer’s numbers weren’t pretty. After a bout of mononucleosis he went 5-3 with a 7.06 ERA. He allowed 59 hits in 51 innings pitched and struck out 63 batters. His freshman year he went 1-4 with a 5.73 ERA. He pitched 59.2 innings while striking out an impressive 80 batters, but he also led the league with 14 wild pitches and ranked fifth with 10 hit batters.
One risk that the Nationals run with selecting Meyer is that he is a junior, which means he could opt to not sign with the Nationals and return to Kentucky for his senior season. Due to his short track record, he likely would be able to command more money if he stayed in school another year because he would be able to prove that he is the real deal. The Nationals then may have to overpay to lock him up if they do take him with the sixth overall pick, which is something they’ve been willing to do under Mike Rizzo’s tenure. The Nationals have spent more on draft picks than any other team in the past two seasons, and have notably given players like J.P. Ramirez and A.J. Cole above slot money to sign with Washington.