When Alex Meyer was asked, at Twins Fest, when he would like to make his big league debut with the Twins, he was pretty honest yet realistic. “I hope the first day, the first game of the season. Realistically, it’s nothing I can control. I’m just trying to make it tough for them.”
And yet, he does have some control over it. He can perform. On Monday night, in front of Twins assistant GM Rob Antony, Meyer did a great job of making the decision to keep Meyer at AAA much more difficult.
Facing Charlotte, the AAA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, Meyer went six shutout innings and earned his first AAA win. He gave up two hits, walked three and struck out 11. In his previous start, at Pawtucket, he gave up three hits and walked three batters in 6.2 scoreless innings. He struck out 11 batters in that game, too. Just so you don’t have to do the math yourself, that is 12.2 innings, five hits, six walks and 22 strikeouts over two starts.
He is making it tough on the Twins front office. Fans see those back-to-back shutouts in the box score. They’ve heard his name. They’ve read about the fastball that touches 100 mph (and the slider, and this new changeup grip taught to him by Red Wings teammates Yohan Pino and Deolis Guerra). They know that the Twins gave up Denard Span for him. Oh, and Twins fans have watched the current starting staff of the Twins post an ERA of 6.04, second worst in baseball.
There are legitimate reasons to keep Meyer down for a little longer:
First, we have to remember that he was limited to just 70 regular season innings last season because of a shoulder injury that cost him two months of his season. He threw more, and very well, in the Arizona Fall League, but overall, he worked fewer than 100 innings in 2012 so they do need to be supremely cautious with him.
Second, although he has generally had pretty good control through his minor league career, he does have 11 walks in 26.2 innings on the season. He had 10 walks over his last three starts (16.1 innings). That is concerning since big league hitters are more patient and will be able to better determine which pitch he is throwing. As Twins hitters have shown this year, the “Walks Will Haunt” cliché is true.
He has been using his new changeup grip for two starts now and the results have been quite favorable. However, having that pitch be a consistent pitch is really important. A third dominant pitch could make him an All-Star. It would not hurt at all to let him work on that pitch for another two or three starts.
Of course, there is the business side of the game of baseball as well. That said, if the Twins called up Alex Meyer to make his major league debut on Sunday against the Orioles, he would be a four-year arbitration guy, but the Twins would control him for an extra season. Of course, the Twins have proven over and over in the past that they don’t often make decisions based on service time. However, Alex Meyer’s agent is Scott Boras, who generally is against long term deals before free agency, so it has to come in to play. To keep him away from arbitration for an extra year, the Twins would have to wait until early-to-mid June.
Meyer is not on the 40-man roster. The Twins are currently at 40 men on the roster, so someone would either need to be designated for assignment or traded (the market for the trade-worthy options is quite limited). There are plenty of options to be DFA'ed on the 40-man roster, so this is a pretty minor inconvenience.
Lefties Kris Johnson and Logan Darnell are both pitching well in Rochester as well, and they are on the 40-man roster. Darnell's season ERA is just 1.69 and he has 21 strikeouts (and just seven walks) in 21.1 innings. Johnson has a 2.86 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 22 innings.
More importantly, you want to make sure Meyer is ready and doesn’t need to be sent down. You would want him to stay with the big league club and not use up an option to send him down. Again, this is hopefully a minor concern as you hope he would not need options in 2015 or 2016 or beyond anyway.
Now, for the reasons why Alex Meyer should be promoted to the Twins. These are much more fun.
Reason Number One… have you seen the Minnesota Twins starting rotation so far this spring? Kyle Gibson has made three (of four) solid starts. Phil Hughes' last two starts have been good. Ricky Nolasco has had one good start. However, the Twins starting rotation has an ERA greater than six, which is just awful. Kevin Correia is reminding Twins fans that although he was quite solid in 2013, we never understood that second season on his contract. Mike Pelfrey has been awful, and Twins fans are wondering loudly why he was signed at all, much less to the two year contract he did receive.
The strikeouts are something we have seen very little of from a starting pitcher since about 2006 when Johan Santana and a rookie Francisco Liriano were dominating the league. The rotation is averaging an MLB-worst 5.12 K/9. Alex Meyer may walk too many when called up initially, but he will also miss a lot of bats. He is a guy who, even right now, could likely strike out eight batters per nine innings.
Alex Meyer is going to be 24 years old through this season. He’s not a 19 year old kid. Meyer is very mature and credits his time at the University of Kentucky for helping him with that.
There is no question that Will Middlebrooks was right to question whether there were actually five starters in Minnesota better than Alex Meyer. As I’ve pointed out before, I honestly don’t think there is even one starting pitcher in the Twins rotation who is better than Meyer right now. His upside is Justin Verlander. He is a potential Cy Young-caliber talent. Those guys are good to have in a big league rotation.
This should NOT be a reason to call him up, but when he makes his big league debut, Target Field will be electric. He’s one of those players who will bring people in and fans can really be excited about.
As easy as we like to think the decision to call up Alex Meyer right now is, it’s not. A lot has to go into it. The most important things that have to be considered when talking about whether Meyer should be called up now or in a month is what is best for Alex Meyer and the Twins. What is going to make Alex Meyer the best he can be? Is he going to be hurt by making three to five more AAA starts? Of course not. There is no negative to it. Would it hurt his long-term development if he is called up too early? I don’t know. No one knows.
That’s why there is no “right” answer to this situation. With top pitching prospects, teams have used different strategies for when to call them up. Both sides of the argument have had successes and failures. It has to be a decision dependent on the individual.
One thing I do know is that I personally can’t wait until Alex Meyer is in the Twins starting rotation. I think most of us can agree on that.
Also at Twins Fest, Meyer said, “I want to show that whenever they’re ready for somebody, I’m just hoping that I’m the guy that is ready to come up.”
At the very least, he’s done that!
Feel free to discuss, and make your projection for when Alex Meyer is promoted to the Minnesota Twins. I'll say... June 6.