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  • How Much Longer Will Alex Meyer (and Twins Fans) Wait?

    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.
    Comments 152 Comments
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by SD Buhr View Post
      And I'm fine with a couple weeks, Brock, especially given that the Twins go on the road Monday for a week.

      My point is simply that I'm kind of tired of thinking logically and being deliberate to make sure every move is timed perfectly. I'd like to see a little sense of urgency out of this front office right now; a sign that they're just as tired of the bad starting pitching as fans are.
      Absolutely. Personally, I think the right move is to dig down and find out why Pelfrey is throwing more fastballs more slowly than any other point in his career. If he's even slightly injured, you replace him with Deduno immediately.

      Then, if Correia is still struggling in mid-to-late May, then you consider calling up Meyer if he's still dominating.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      I think roster space has a lot to do with it for position players but I'm not so sure about pitchers... I think the (maddening at times) bullpen stints for Liriano and Santana had as much to do with controlling innings as rotation space, particularly in the case of Liriano, who was only 22 in 2006.

      The Santana situation in 2003 was infuriating, though. He was only 23 at the time but he was so obviously better than some of the junk they were rolling out in the rotation.
      The Santana thing is a constant throughout Anderson's tenure. He favors veteran status over any other consideration. This is why Correia started ahead of Hughes and Gibson this year, even though he's the fourth-best pitcher in the rotation, ahead of only Pelfrey, which is not saying much.

      I think you can't compare position player development to pitcher development. You can develop as a pitcher in the major leagues much easier than you can as a position player. The top consideration is who is best placed to get outs right now. All pitchers are developing and making adjustments all the time. If Meyer is better right now, they should make room for him. IMHO, he's better than both Pelfrey and Correia right now. By the end of the season, he will be the ace of the staff, without much question.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by tarheeltwinsfan View Post
      2) Meyer has proven he is ready.
      He hasn't even come close to proving he is ready. He's had two dominant starts in a row. Let's not get ahead of ourselves here. Kyle Gibson was pretty dominant for over 100 innings of AAA ball last season and was absolutely awful when he got the call.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by crarko View Post
      The next (hopefully post-rain) home stand starts May 13th against the Red Sox. That would be the earliest I'd see a move being made that involves messing with the 40-man.
      Yep. And as I've posted previously, Meyer's current pitching schedule corresponds pretty well with starts on Tuesday, May 13 and the following Sunday of that Twins homestand.

      (And don't the Twins have to do something with Guerrier in the next 2 weeks as well?
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      I might be wrong but I don't believe there's a single instance of Boras doing this with a high profile client.
      From what I understand, this is true for hitters, but not as much for pitchers, which I'm guessing has to do with a greater amount of risk to injury..

      That said, this is a pet peeve of mine. Boras is an agent and doesn't have ultimate control over the player. Clearly players that hire him want to maximize their value, but the ultimate decision lies with the player, not the agent. Boras may advise against this, but the ultimate decision would like with the player after Boras explains to them the risk/reward.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      He was actually quite good in the second half of last season.
      Pelfrey, second half of 2013, had roughly a 92 ERA+ and averaged less than 5.5 IP per start. Better than his first half, but not sure if I'd call that "quite good". Certainly shouldn't guarantee him much slack in 2014.

      Also, to be fair, his rough start in 2014 isn't just a run of the mill, bad-luck rough patch -- it looks fairly epically bad. 15 BB, 8 K, 5 HR in 19.2 IP. That's the kind of trend I want to see the Twins getting in front of with a roster move, not waiting too long to let it play out some more.
    1. amjgt's Avatar
      amjgt -
      I've seen talk of this new and improved changeup, but what's improved about it?

      Movement? Lower velocity?

      Anyone know?
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      The Santana thing is a constant throughout Anderson's tenure. He favors veteran status over any other consideration. This is why Correia started ahead of Hughes and Gibson this year, even though he's the fourth-best pitcher in the rotation, ahead of only Pelfrey, which is not saying much.
      I don't think that has much of a bearing on anything other than "protect the younger guys who may not have the confidence to go against the tougher pitchers the first two times through the rotation".

      Rotation order has so little bearing on anything that I wonder why people even bring it up.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      He hasn't even come close to proving he is ready. He's had two dominant starts in a row. Let's not get ahead of ourselves here. Kyle Gibson was pretty dominant for over 100 innings of AAA ball last season and was absolutely awful when he got the call.

      Other issues (like Super 2?) came into play with Gibson's very belated call-up. But if you don't call a guy up, how does one really know if he's ready or not?
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by spycake View Post
      Also, to be fair, his rough start in 2014 isn't just a run of the mill, bad-luck rough patch -- it looks fairly epically bad. 15 BB, 8 K, 5 HR in 19.2 IP. That's the kind of trend I want to see the Twins getting in front of with a roster move, not waiting too long to let it play out some more.
      Which is why I've questioned multiple times whether he's injured. His velocity is down, he's giving up an inordinate number of gopher balls, he's relying less on offspeed pitches (already a weak point of his pitching style), and he's walking too many batters.

      If he's even *a little bit* injured, he needs to be out of the rotation immediately.
    1. tarheeltwinsfan's Avatar
      tarheeltwinsfan -
      The Twins need to be shopping Correia and Pelfrey now for prospects. The Twins and other teams know what to expect from Correia. He has been consistent and predictable. Every time there is an injury to a starter, Anthony should be on the phone immediately to the injured pitcher's GM and see what can be worked out. Pelfrey will not bring as much on a trade because he is not as predictable as Correia and has pitched worse than Correia.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      Other issues (like Super 2?) came into play with Gibson's very belated call-up. But if you don't call a guy up, how does one really know if he's ready or not?
      They get to watch the guy's film every start. We don't. It's really that simple.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by amjgt View Post
      I've seen talk of this new and improved changeup, but what's improved about it?

      Movement? Lower velocity?

      Anyone know?
      According to the pertinent article, Meyer was having trouble with his previous off-speed stuff to the point that he was over-relying on the FB. Apparently, the new 3 finger-grip change is a knee buckler with guys setting up for the FB. Will Middlebrooks was a believer, striking out 3 times.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      They get to watch the guy's film every start. We don't. It's really that simple.
      So does someone need to be fired for so badly mis-interpreting Gibson's videos from late last June?
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      So does someone need to be fired for so badly mis-interpreting Gibson's videos from late last June?
      No. IIRC, Ryan pointed out that he wasn't going after batters before the call-up, which was also Gibson's problem in the Majors. By June/July of last season, the front office no longer had much of a choice. The rotation was so bad that somebody had to step up... I'm sure they were hoping Gibson was that guy, despite statements about consistency before the call-up. Obviously, that didn't work out for them but based on comments, I think they were aware that might be an issue.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      Meyer doesn't need to keep throwing shutouts. If he continues to miss bats and walks fewer batters, then he forces a decision. My point is that two starts usually don't provide enough information to make an informed decision. Give him some more time and if he's still completely dominating lineups two weeks from now, then you know he's really on to something and isn't succeeding through a healthy dose of dumb luck and bad lineups.
      Although I kinda get what you're saying, nobody is basing a Meyer decision on two starts. His early results in 2014, while the first time he's been at AAA, are perfectly consistent with 2013, and basically his pro career.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Basically, Gibson benefited from coming up last year, even though he might not have been ready. Now, he's more ready this year. I'd argue that getting a taste (and either succeeding and staying up, or learning what you need to change) is a better strategy than waiting for some level of perfection. Either way, I want Pelfrey out of the rotation sooner rather than later.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by spycake View Post
      Although I kinda get what you're saying, nobody is basing a Meyer decision on two starts. His early results in 2014, while the first time he's been at AAA, are perfectly consistent with 2013, and basically his pro career.
      But the changeup is new. He's dominating at a level he didn't show in AA and his new pitch is getting the credit.

      Again, I'm not against calling up Meyer soon, I simply believe that showing a bit of prudence and letting him pitch a few more innings in AAA isn't going to kill anybody. Let him show that the changeup is real and that he's truly a dominant pitcher.
    1. crarko's Avatar
      crarko -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      (And don't the Twins have to do something with Guerrier in the next 2 weeks as well?
      May 8th is his current opt-out date. Unfortunately I fear Tonkin instead of Burton would be the casualty. Options and all.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      Meyer doesn't need to keep throwing shutouts. If he continues to miss bats and walks fewer batters, then he forces a decision. My point is that two starts usually don't provide enough information to make an informed decision. Give him some more time and if he's still completely dominating lineups two weeks from now, then you know he's really on to something and isn't succeeding through a healthy dose of dumb luck and bad lineups.
      .
      Yep. I think 2 more weeks is what's all most of us are asking for, not, promote him YESTERDAY!

      And in looking at his peripherals and his recent opponents and accounts from Will Middlebrooks, it's more than dumb look going on here. He's more than tripled his INF Fly Out rate from 3.5% to nearly 12% and dropped his LD% from 14.1% to 9.3% meaning teams are having great difficulty making good contact.
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