Sunday, January 17, 2016

What's Next for Alex Meyer?

2015 was supposed to be his season, his moment. After working his way through two different minor league systems over three years, Alex Meyer was on the cusp of making his major league debut. In fact, Baseball Prospectus had him ranked as the 14th best prospect in baseball, his highest ranking on any national list during his professional career.

As Meyer entered his age-25 season at last year's TwinsFest, he compared his age to that of another late bloomer, Randy Johnson. Meyer said, "Randy Johnson, I think I read he came up when he was 25. He just so happened to be tall, too, so let's hope. If I could have half that career..."

Meyer started the year in the minor leagues and things didn't go exactly to plan. He made eight starts in Rochester and compiled a 7.09 ERA with 41 strikeouts and 24 walks in 39.1 IP. Something wasn't clicking and the Twins decided to move him to the bullpen.

"I love starting. I've done it my whole life," Meyer said later in the season. "But going out there and getting my teeth kicked in every game wasn't a good experience."

The transition to the bullpen came with some positive results. In his next nine appearance (17 IP), he posted a 0.53 ERA with 20 strikeouts and six walks. Opponents batted .188 against him during this stretch and got on base less than 27% of the time.

It was time to see if Meyer could resemble Mr. Johnson as the Twins called him up to make his big league debut. In two interleague games, Meyer pitched 2.2 innings and allowed five earned runs including two home runs. Opponents got on base 50% of the time and batted over .360. It wasn't exactly the magical moment Meyer had dreamed about.

Meyer wouldn't make it back to the big leagues in 2015. He'd spend the rest of the season figuring out his new bullpen role. Things didn't got perfectly as he allowed 15 earned runs in his next 13.0 innings pitched with a 17 to 8 strikeout to walk ratio. But he did improve in his last 10 games as he allowed two earned runs in 22.2 innings with 22 strikeouts and 10 walks.

The Twins have seen other failed starters succeed in bullpen roles. All-Star closer Glen Perkins was a starter before finding success in the bullpen. Brian Duensing went back and forth between starter and reliever before eventually being moved to the bullpen. Trevor May had success as a starter last season but his future looks to be that of a reliever.

Luckily for Meyer, the bullpen has more opportunities than the rotation as the Twins get closer to spring training. Minnesota hasn't made little to no offseason moves to bolster the pitching staff as the team seems destined to use internal options in 2016. That being said, it would take a strong spring from Meyer to prove he belongs at the big league level to start the year. Meyer's control and use of his change-up will be keys to him finding success at the next level.

It seems likely that Meyer will start the year in Rochester as the organization monitors how he can adjust to his first full season as a relief pitcher. His path to the big leagues has taken a different course but he can still be an impact player as the Twins become more relevant in the American League.

2015 wasn't his season but 2016 and beyond could bring better moments for Alex Meyer the relief pitcher.

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