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  • Will Alex Meyer Pitch in the Majors This Year?


    Nick Nelson

    With the Twins once again buried in last place and their starting pitching staff once again ranking among the worst in the league, fans have been asking the same question for much of the summer.

     

    When will Trevor May and Alex Meyer get the call?

    Image courtesy of Jerry Lai, USA Today Sports

    By all appearances, both of the highly rated pitching prospects have been MLB-ready for some time. May and Meyer rank fifth and sixth, respectively, on the International League ERA leaderboard, and they're both in the top three for strikeout rate.

     

    Yet, both have been left to dominate in Triple-A while the Twins give starts to lesser talents like Kris Johnson, Logan Darnell and Yohan Pino. We're now almost a week into August, and still there's no clear indication that either May or Meyer is even on the verge of a promotion.

     

    It's not hard to see why people are frustrated, but at the same time, there are circumstances at play with both pitchers that need to be recognized.

     

    May is very, very close. When he was seemingly nearing a call-up in June, he suffered an ill-timed calf injury that cost him a month, and he's been working his way back. Just now has he finally returned to a normal workload; he threw 99 pitches in his last start, the first time since mid-June that he's gone over 80.

     

    He's already on the 40-man roster. Bringing him up is a simple move at this point. I have to imagine that May will be on the Twins within the next turn or two through the rotation.

     

    The wait for Meyer will probably last longer. He might not even debut in 2014. And while that's unfortunate to hear, it's not something to get riled up at the organization over.

     

    Last year, Meyer missed two months -- more than a third of his season -- with a sore throwing shoulder. It was very scary, especially when you consider that his size and delivery always elicited injury concerns from scouts.

     

    Fortunately, the shoulder has been fine this year. He hasn't missed a start and has been making mincemeat of minor-league hitters. But when you look at this pitch count from start to start, it's obvious that the Twins are being very cautious with him.

     

    Here are Meyer's inning totals and pitch counts for each outing with Rochester this season:

     

    4/6: 5.0 IP, 79 pitches

    4/12: 5.1 IP, 83 pitches

    4/18: 3.2 IP, 77 pitches

    4/23: 6.2 IP, 100 pitches

    4/28: 6.0 IP, 100 pitches

    5/4: 4.2 IP, 92 pitches

    5/10: 4.0 IP, 92 pitches

    5/15: 5.0 IP, 69 pitches

    5/22: 5.1 IP, 79 pitches

    5/28: 6.0 IP, 88 pitches

    6/2: 5.0 IP, 78 pitches

    6/7: 6.0 IP, 81 pitches

    6/13: 2.0 IP, 51 pitches

    6/18: 3.0 IP, 78 pitches

    6/23: 3.2 IP, 73 pitches

    6/28: 6.0 IP, 77 pitches

    7/3: 6.0 IP, 86 pitches

    7/8: 6.0 IP, 96 pitches

    7/18: 6.0 IP, 88 pitches

    7/23: 6.0 IP, 86 pitches

    7/29: 5.0 IP, 96 pitches

    8/3: 5.2 IP, 91 pitches

     

    Looking at the game log, a few things stand out. First, he's only been allowed to pitch into the seventh inning once all season, despite the fact that he's routinely blowing away opposing lineups. Second, only seven times in 22 starts has he been pushed over 90 pitches.

     

    Twins Daily member jokin was in attendance during Meyer's latest start in Louisville, and described the performance in a post here on our forums. His writeup noted that Meyer was pulled rather abruptly with two outs in the fifth despite "looking completely in command of the game," as the righty had surpassed the 90-pitch threshold.

     

    This observation coincides with what we're seeing in Meyer's pitch count trends. There's a clear effort being made to monitor him very closely and pull him out of games where he's laboring or approaching that triple-digit pitch mark.

     

    It's a lot easier to do that in Triple-A, where the games don't really matter, than in the majors. Big-league starters are expected to throw more than 90 pitches. And Meyer, whose command remains spotty despite all his notable strengths, could have some games where he hits that 90-pitch mark pretty quickly as he transitions to the highest level. That taxes a bullpen.

     

    As a fan, I am dying to see Meyer pitch in a Twins uniform. But at the same time, I'm not going to fault the organization for taking every precaution with such a highly valuable arm, especially in a lost season. If they just want to get him through a full, healthy campaign, with the idea of having him try and win a spot next spring, I can live with that.

     

    At this point, it might not make much of a difference. He has already thrown 112 innings this year, which is eight more than he threw total last year, between the regular season and Arizona Fall League. As careful as they've been with him, it's hard to imagine the Twins letting Meyer top 150 innings this season.

     

    That means he might only have five or six starts left. While it would be nice for the fans if a few of those come in the majors, that also requires adding him to the 40-man and starting his service clock. Those aren't huge hurdles, necessarily, but they're factors.

     

    Ultimately, it wouldn't shock me if the Twins let Meyer finish out in Triple-A, and it wouldn't really upset me.

     

    International League hitters might feel differently.

     

    ------------

     

    Since the Twins won on Tuesday, you can get half off your L or XL pizza order from PapaJohns.com on Wednesday with the promo code 'TWINSWIN'!

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    Oxtung you have a point, but you are also missing the premise. If innings is the issue, the bullpen is the best place to manage him. He can still have a similar routine, he just isn't going to start games, just come in relief. Plus, what is his limit 150? So he could theoretically come up and start... then get sent to the pen to close out the year or shut down.

     

    The premise is Meyer needs MLB innings to continue his development. He needs to face MLB hitters. He needs to struggle. He needs to be put in a situation that the start of 2015 he can take off running. The same goes for May. This organization has trouble convincing itself to start the season with rookies... yet they let these two guys spend the entire year in AAA without even a cup of coffee. Its maddening. 

     

    You're missing my point.  If you move Meyer to the pen you're taking a big* risk for a very small reward.  15 innings out of the bullpen is meaningless in the context of his career.

     

    *You can define "big" any way you'd like.

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    Multiple reports have been posted about the new change up and his struggles with consistency with the pitch.  Plus, I got to see the pitch first hand on Sunday, my eyewitness viewing confirmed that he hasn't mastered full control of the pitch yet.

     

    "Struggling with consistency" is not the same as "causing his increased walk rate."  Has he or a coach given any indication that his walk rate is directly related to his change up?

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    "Struggling with consistency" is not the same as "causing his increased walk rate."  Has he or a coach given any indication that his walk rate is directly related to his change up?

     

    Logically, it would seem plausable that he would struggle to locate a pitch he started mid-season at age 24-25.  Certainly more so than his other pitches he has thrown his whole life.

     

    If pitch fx data existed for minor leaguers that may be telling. I am not sure it is available though.  I am thinking percentage strikes/balls by pitch type.

    Edited by tobi0040
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    Logically, it would seem plausable that he would struggle to locate a pitch he started mid-season at age 24-25.  Certainly more so than his other pitches he has thrown his whole life.

     

    If pitch fx data existed for minor leaguers that may be telling. I am not sure it is available though.  I am thinking percentage strikes/balls by pitch type.

    I agree that it is logical he would struggle to locate his new change up at times but does that mean his walk rate would increase?  He isn't going to throw his new change up he struggles to control in a 3 ball count. He's going to come with the fastball or his slider that he can control.  To me it is more likely his FB control hasn't been what it should be and that the AAA hitters are willing to take the pitch.

     

    If you want to tell me his lack of control on his new change up has caused some balls to be hit hard and increased his HR rate because it has drifted across the middle of the plate too often, I would have no problems believing that. 

     

    This is getting OT, my point was Meyer's control issues probably aren't just about this change up and we need to accept that.  I'm not arguing that should be keeping him from the majors though.

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    I agree that it is logical he would struggle to locate his new change up at times but does that mean his walk rate would increase?  He isn't going to throw his new change up he struggles to control in a 3 ball count. He's going to come with the fastball or his slider that he can control.  To me it is more likely his FB control hasn't been what it should be and that the AAA hitters are willing to take the pitch.

     

    If you want to tell me his lack of control on his new change up has caused some balls to be hit hard and increased his HR rate because it has drifted across the middle of the plate too often, I would have no problems believing that. 

     

    This is getting OT, my point was Meyer's control issues probably aren't just about this change up and we need to accept that.  I'm not arguing that should be keeping him from the majors though.

     

    Well, maybe he would not throw the change in a 3 ball count. But maybe the change has led to 2-3 additional 3 ball counts per start?  Even 1-2 additional 3 ball counts could lead to an additional walk every other outing and the increase from 3.5 to 4.4 BB's every 9 innings.

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    I'm not sure what good 40 man spots are when my point is that there are many players that need to be evaluated at the big league level this season so 40 man decisions can be made this off season. 

    I think there is a lot more of the mediocre expiring contracts / getting expensive veterans on this 25-man roster, than borderline guys getting evaluated right now.  Pino, I guess, and Pressly, although both could easily be optioned and recalled after Sep. 1 when Meyer will presumably be shut down.

     

    Colabello?  He's a virtual lock to be removed from the 40-man after the season.  Schafer is too, although I understand they just picked him up and want a look at him -- arb-eligible guys with a "shot at being the 4th OF heading into next season" are DFA'd after the season all the time, if only to re-sign on a cheaper, more flexible minor league deal (see Sam Fuld last winter).

     

    Otherwise, Vargas is sticking on the 40-man regardless -- he certainly doesn't need to be on the 25-man for urgent evaluation purposes.

     

    EDIT TO ADD: Also, when a lot of these evaluations (Pino, Johnson, Darnell... Swarzak with a start too?) have been rotating through 2 open rotation spots the last month and a half, 40-man roster spots are a big criteria.  They could add Meyer to the roster for Saturday's start, send him back down to AAA Tuesday, and recall him Sep. 1 (if only on paper, assuming he is shut down) and not even burn an option year on him.

    Edited by spycake
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    Everything about how the Twins approach pitching indicates an extreme aversion to pitcher injuries. They keep the minor leaguers on strict pitch count and innings limits. They prefer innings eaters (Nolasco, Correia) to effective starters with past injuries (Garza, McCarthy) when signing free agents. They prefer their starting pitchers develop changeups, not sliders. The problem with this is it doesn't seem to matter. Pitchers still get injured and pitcher health is still unpredictable.

     

    I'm still trying to figure out how the focus on drafting college relievers fits into all of this. Maybe they think those guys have less mileage on their arm.

     

    Oakland seems to have a better approach - trade them when they get expensive and have a lot of cheap depth around.

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    Everything about how the Twins approach pitching indicates an extreme aversion to pitcher injuries. They keep the minor leaguers on strict pitch count and innings limits. They prefer innings eaters (Nolasco, Correia) to effective starters with past injuries (Garza, McCarthy) when signing free agents. They prefer their starting pitchers develop changeups, not sliders. The problem with this is it doesn't seem to matter. Pitchers still get injured and pitcher health is still unpredictable.

    This would be great if it actually worked. Have the Twins protected any arms? We seem to have at least the normal amount of injuries. I don't even know why the 150 inning limit is relevant. Where is the science that says this is protecting his arm. He is as likely to have an injury in his first week of spring training as he is on inning 200 this year.

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    Well, maybe he would not throw the change in a 3 ball count. But maybe the change has led to 2-3 additional 3 ball counts per start?  Even 1-2 additional 3 ball counts could lead to an additional walk every other outing and the increase from 3.5 to 4.4 BB's every 9 innings.

     

     

     

    I agree that it is logical he would struggle to locate his new change up at times but does that mean his walk rate would increase?  He isn't going to throw his new change up he struggles to control in a 3 ball count. He's going to come with the fastball or his slider that he can control.  To me it is more likely his FB control hasn't been what it should be and that the AAA hitters are willing to take the pitch.

     

     

     

     

     

    You nailed it Tobi, at least from what I observed in his latest start- that largely accounted for the 3 walks from Sunday.  I should have kept better record on the B/S for each of his 3 pitches, but I would estimate that slightly less than half of his change-ups were in the strike zone, and at least for Sunday night, about 85% of his FB were in the zone (I can't emphasize enough that he looks to have strong command at getting the FB where he wants it to be in the zone). 

     

    Meyer only reached 3 ball counts in 4 out of 22 batters faced.  And in all 4 cases, the lack of control of the change led to the 3 ball count- one called ball change on one PA and 2 called ball changes on 2 other PAs, also including a called ball four on a change on one of his 3 walks, plus he threw the change a couple of times on 3-ball counts that led to foul balls.  (As I said, the game looked like more of a training exercise for Meyer than a competitive game- he's clearly trying to add the pitch into the mix for all situations- perhaps throwing that ball confidently on a 3-2 count is one of the criteria TR has established for Meyer to have the chance to punch his ticket?).

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    the game looked like more of a training exercise for Meyer than a competitive game- he's clearly trying to add the pitch into the mix for all situations- perhaps throwing that ball confidently on a 3-2 count is one of the criteria TR has established for Meyer to have the chance to punch his ticket?

     

    That certainly could make sense.  Surely, the Twins have Alex at AAA to work on something.  The fact that we don't definitively know what doesn't make the Twins idiots who can't figure out when to promote a pitcher, as many here are suggesting.  With a prospect of his type, I'd be almost certain there's a heck-of-a-lot of discussion around how to best develop him.

     

    I'm hoping he ends up in the pen for September.

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    That certainly could make sense.  Surely, the Twins have Alex at AAA to work on something.  The fact that we don't definitively know what doesn't make the Twins idiots who can't figure out when to promote a pitcher, as many here are suggesting.  With a prospect of his type, I'd be almost certain there's a heck-of-a-lot of discussion around how to best develop him.

     

    I'm hoping he ends up in the pen for September.

     

    I hope you are right, but I just can't discount the fact that this could all be about dollar bills.

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    The odd thing is that the big dollar bill deadlines have already passed unless the Twins plan on keeping Meyer in AAA until late July of 2015... and that doesn't make any sense.

     

    I'd really be calling for the GM's head at that point....

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    The odd thing is that the big dollar bill deadlines have already passed unless the Twins plan on keeping Meyer in AAA until late July of 2015... and that doesn't make any sense.

     

    What if Meyer has some minor injury next March or April?  They get to baby him for a month or two, then rehab, etc.

    Edited by tobi0040
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    I think there is a lot more of the mediocre expiring contracts / getting expensive veterans on this 25-man roster, than borderline guys getting evaluated right now.  Pino, I guess, and Pressly, although both could easily be optioned and recalled after Sep. 1 when Meyer will presumably be shut down.

     

    Colabello?  He's a virtual lock to be removed from the 40-man after the season.  Schafer is too, although I understand they just picked him up and want a look at him -- arb-eligible guys with a "shot at being the 4th OF heading into next season" are DFA'd after the season all the time, if only to re-sign on a cheaper, more flexible minor league deal (see Sam Fuld last winter).

     

    Otherwise, Vargas is sticking on the 40-man regardless -- he certainly doesn't need to be on the 25-man for urgent evaluation purposes.

     

    EDIT TO ADD: Also, when a lot of these evaluations (Pino, Johnson, Darnell... Swarzak with a start too?) have been rotating through 2 open rotation spots the last month and a half, 40-man roster spots are a big criteria.  They could add Meyer to the roster for Saturday's start, send him back down to AAA Tuesday, and recall him Sep. 1 (if only on paper, assuming he is shut down) and not even burn an option year on him.

     

    Sending position players to AAA doesn't help the reliever situation which is really where the back up is right now in the system.  Sticking Meyer in the pen, besides having no upside, just takes a spot away to evaluate a player whose future is in question.  Again, regardless of how Meyer does in his 15 or so innings he is in the same position come spring 2015.  It changes nothing.  On the other hand 15 innings could be beneficial in determining who of Tonkin, Oliveros, Guerra, Ibarra, Achter, Hamburger, Gilmartin, Thompson, Johnson, Pryor or Milone are should be kept/placed on the 40 man.  Can any of them be counted on to replace current, more expensive and/or less reliable bullpen pieces? How do they compare to Pino, Johnson or Darnell out of the bullpen?

     

    After this wave there is the Burdi, Reed, T. Jones, Melotakis, Wimmers, Peterson, Van Steensel, Muren, Gallant and probably others I've missed.  That doesn't even include all the relievers turned starter that might go back to relievers (a la Melotakis).  Or injuries like Z. Jones, Bard, and Chargois if they can ever get healthy. 

     

    The Twins minor leagues is absolutely packed with relief pitching talent.  The only way they're going to know who has what it takes and who doesn't is by letting some of these guys get their chance.  Deduno, Swarzak, Duensing, Burton and Fien are not the future.  It's time we get on with the future and the relief core is a place we can do that.  Just because these guys aren't at a sexy position doesn't mean they aren't every bit a prospect as May and Meyer at their respective positions. Given all the angst that people are showing for not promoting talent faster I see none of it for relievers.

     

    Meyer and May might deserve rotation spots and I'm fine with that but putting them in the bullpen does nothing for next season.  In fact it hurts the evaluation of players that might be solid bullpen pieces for years to come. And for what?  15 innings of a pitcher we know will be fighting for a rotation spot next season either way?

     

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    This would be great if it actually worked. Have the Twins protected any arms? We seem to have at least the normal amount of injuries. I don't even know why the 150 inning limit is relevant. Where is the science that says this is protecting his arm. He is as likely to have an injury in his first week of spring training as he is on inning 200 this year.

     

    If there is no science backing up the 150 innings limit then there certainly isn't any science backing up your assertion that he is just as likely to get injured at 200 innings this year as spring training next season.  Lacking any science it just comes down to a judgement call. 

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    If there is no science backing up the 150 innings limit then there certainly isn't any science backing up your assertion that he is just as likely to get injured at 200 innings this year as spring training next season. Lacking any science it just comes down to a judgement call.

     

    There is a theory out there (google "The Verducci Effect") that increasing a young pitcher's workload by more than 30-ish IP from one season to the next increases his chance of arm problems in the following season. Meyer had, I believe, less than 120 IP total in 2013. That's where the supposed 150 IP limit in 2014 comes from....to hopefully reduce the risk in 2015. Edited by USAFChief
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    Circumstances make Meyer a long shot to pitch with the Twins this year. Too bad, because it probably will hurt his chances to make the club out of Spring Training. Of course, a couple weeks in Rochester will give the team control for another year.

     

    Meyer should be good to go 180 or more innings next year. I hope at least 90% of them are for the Twins.

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    You nailed it Tobi, at least from what I observed in his latest start- that largely accounted for the 3 walks from Sunday.  I should have kept better record on the B/S for each of his 3 pitches, but I would estimate that slightly less than half of his change-ups were in the strike zone, and at least for Sunday night, about 85% of his FB were in the zone (I can't emphasize enough that he looks to have strong command at getting the FB where he wants it to be in the zone). 

    Meyer only reached 3 ball counts in 4 out of 22 batters faced.  And in all 4 cases, the lack of control of the change led to the 3 ball count- one called ball change on one PA and 2 called ball changes on 2 other PAs, also including a called ball four on a change on one of his 3 walks, plus he threw the change a couple of times on 3-ball counts that led to foul balls.  (As I said, the game looked like more of a training exercise for Meyer than a competitive game- he's clearly trying to add the pitch into the mix for all situations- perhaps throwing that ball confidently on a 3-2 count is one of the criteria TR has established for Meyer to have the chance to punch his ticket?).

    This!

     

    Great post Jokin.

     

    I think you might have hit it in the head. Let's be real folks, the Twins know how good Meyer can be, and that he is our top pitching prospect. Does anyone really think there is some conspiracy to keep Meyer down at AAA because...because...because...because they don't like him??? Because he really isn't as talented as first thought and they're afraid to promote him???

     

    Sounds crazy right? You can argue until blue in the face, but for the most part, the Twins...right or wrong...have traditionally been consistent with their pitching promotions. A pitcher, position player for that matter, no matter how talented or productive, traditionally plays a half season at a level at least before being promoted to the next level. (This is a little less accurate in the low levels, especially for college players) Witness Berrios this season for example; already younger than most all players at his level, after a strong first half performance, he was promoted mid-season to a higher level where he became EVEN YOUNGER in regard to the league he had been playing in previously. There wasn't a hesitation because he had proven himself, appeared ready, and was building up his innings total after a full and healthy 2013.

     

    The Twins have always, again, right or wrong, followed a script whereby they increase a pitchers innings to a certain degree one year to the next. And like it to not, Meyer did miss time last season. If you want to accuse the Twins of being too conservative in their approach, then I guess you have an arguement I can agree with. However, as Jokin alludes to in his comments, is it really so terrible that the Twins want him to work on his change up, or whatever, a bit more, gain that little bit more consistency before coming up, to insure maximum possible success?

     

    FWIW, I advocated a 6 man rotation recently, as did Seth in his recent article. It provides a chance for the balance of the season to look at May, Meyer, and even Millone, to help prepare for next season, without taxing anyone's innings. As for Meyer getting some innings in the bullpen, it's not like anyone is talking about him becoming a reliever. It's about getting experience while maintaining his innings under control. There is a difference between a pitcher coming in from the pen to hold a lead in a pennant race, firing his best stuff, and having Meyer come in to pitch 2-3 innings and throw ALL his pitches in September.

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    There is a theory out there (google "The Verducci Effect") that increasing a young pitcher's workload by more than 30-ish IP from one season to the next increases his chance of arm problems in the following season. Meyer had, I believe, less than 120 IP total in 2013. That's where the supposed 150 IP limit in 2014 comes from....to hopefully reduce the risk in 2015.

     

    Yup.  I was responding to another poster that was complaining about adhering to the above strategy insisting that there was no data to back it up.  Instead the twins were supposed to let him pitch out the season regardless of his IP because there was no more risk this season or next because of it. 

     

    My point, clearly poorly worded, was that neither has any data.  It is a judgement call either way and it's hard to fault the Twins because they're erring on the side of caution. 

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