The Situation: As the Twins look to get back to the winning ways that vaulted them to second place in the Central Division, the club optioned reliever Michael Tonkin to the minors, calling up right-hander Alex Meyer.
Background: Originally a first-round pick of the Washington Nationals in 2011, Meyer joined the Twins as part of the deal that sent Denard Span to Washington following the 2012 season. Since joining the Twins organization, Meyer experienced success in the starting rotation over his first two seasons, posting an ERA in the mid-threes across 40 starts. That all changed at the outset of the 2015 season when Meyer struggled to command his arsenal and was pushed to the Triple-A Rochester bullpen by the Twins.
Scouting Report: Meyer has always offered an electric arsenal with the potential to completely dominate hitters, and that arsenal has played to new heights since moving to the bullpen this season. Standing 6-foot-9 and 220 pounds, Meyer cuts an imposing presence on the mound, using his length to generate exceptional angle and leverage to the plate.
With that height and length, Meyer’s overpowering fastball plays up even more, cutting through the strike zone making it very difficult for hitters to find contact. Meyer’s velocity works in the 95-98 mph range in short bursts and I have spoken to several scouts who have seen him hit triple digits on occasion. On top of the extreme angle and velocity, Meyer’s fastball has good life in the zone and his extension out front allows his fastball to jump on hitters. Meyer’s fastball is an aggressive pitch that can completely dominate hitters in any situation.
When not relying on his triple-digit heat, Meyer turns to an easy plus slider with tight rotation and tremendous tilt. His slider comes out of the same arm slot as his fastball, giving the offering a quality disguise that allows him to miss bats with yet another pitch.
As a starter, Meyer offered a changeup that flashed average potential, but he won’t be required to use his third offering much out of the bullpen. The key for Meyer’s success in any role will be his ability to control his long limbs and extra-large frame to consistently find the strike zone with his two primary pitches. If he can find some consistency with his delivery in a max-effort role, Meyer should have plenty of success and could pitch in the toughest of situations at the end of games.
Immediate Big-League Future: There’s no reason to believe this trip to the big leagues will be anything but a lengthy one for Meyer. The Twins need more talent to remain contenders in the Central, and Meyer provides plenty of talent out of the bullpen. As he cuts his teeth, he should move into high-leverage innings and could be a serious asset for the Twins throughout the second half of the season. –Mark Anderson
Fantasy Impact: The spate of high-profile call-ups has made for a busy summer for prospect followers and fantasy owners alike, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to call this one the least actionable of the lot from a fantasy perspective. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited as hell to see a 6-foot-9 guy who can back up a triple-digit fastball with a wipeout slider face big-league hitters, but Meyer doesn’t move the needle in standard depth re-draft leagues because of his present role.
Meyer was ranked 49th on Bret Sayre’s preseason top dynasty league prospects list and that placement allowed for the possibility that he remains a starter while hedging for the probability that he winds up a high-leverage reliever. After eight Triple-A starts that included one dominant performance and seven poor ones, The Twins moved him to Rochester’s bullpen and he’s been excellent since. Meyer pitched 17 innings in relief, striking out 20 against six walks. Though it’s a small sample, the decrease in his walk rate from 12.9 percent as a starter to 8.5 percent out of the ‘pen is notable, as his control has long been in question.
While the prevailing assumption is that a move to the bullpen means the Twins view Meyer as a potential future closer, they weren’t expressly grooming him for that role in Triple-A. Meyer did not tally a save and he pitched more than one inning in five of his nine relief appearances, including one three-inning appearance and one four-inning outing. Meyer will pitch in a similar role for the Twins, who got off to a surprising start but have faded during a 9-14 June. He’ll improve a bullpen that is ranked 18th by DRA, but barring injury, he has no chance of unseating Glen Perkins for ninth-inning duties and therefore has negligible near-term fantasy value. Despite not striking anyone out, Casey Fien and Blaine Boyer have been pretty solid at run prevention as the primary setup men, so Meyer is unlikely to add many holds either. The WHIP liability is also still present; a few solid minor-league relief appearances doesn’t put that issue to bed.
Let someone else speculate on Meyer in mixed leagues. In AL-only, throw a couple bucks at him if you need a lottery ticket and have FAAB to burn, but know that he’s unlikely to return even the most modest investment unless the Twins turn him back into a starter or something happens to Perkins. Meyer is almost certainly gone in dynasty leagues, but if not, he deserves a heavier but still-unsubstantial outlay based on potential. His long-term role remains unclear and Perkins is signed through 2017. –Greg Wellemeyer
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