Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Twins Return Empty Handed For Denard Span

Today, Alex Meyer pitched for the Rochester Red Wings. The top pitching prospect in the Minnesota farm system turned in another clunker. Walking five batters in just 3.2 innings, Twins fans have to wonder when or if Meyer will ever get his control issues figured out. Having dealt Denard Span for the former first round pick in 2012, Meyer's window of opportunity to provide a return is closing.

Last season, Meyer spent the entirety of his season at the Triple-A level pitching for the Rochester Red Wings. He compiled a 3.52 ERA across 27 starts, and while his 10.6 K/9 was impressive, the 4.4 BB/9 was no doubt ugly. Shoulder issues plagued him down the stretch last season, and eventually derailed any possibility of a September call up. Arm issues aside though, Meyer just wasn't effective late in the year last year. Poor starts marred by ugly command put a halt to any fast track talk for the highly touted prospect.

Two starts into the 2015 season, the issues have only gotten worse for Meyer. After failing to crack the rotation out of spring training, Meyer has allowed six and five walks in his first two starts. He has yet to pitch past the 5th inning, and his pitch counts have been largely taxed with pitches missing the plate. Although he is considered the ace for the Red Wings, there's no doubt that all involved parties have to be feeling some frustration.

When Minnesota sent Span to the Nationals, they believed they were getting a top of the rotation arm in return. Although that may still end up being the case, there's no doubt that the clock is ticking. 2012 is now three years in the rear view mirror, and the Twins have a 25 year-old Triple-A pitcher who still isn't major league ready. At 6'9" the mechanics may never come together, and making Meyer a viable starter could be something that fails to come to fruition. An eventual bullpen shift could be in the cards as well, but there's plenty of complications there as well.

Plenty of statistical backing would suggest that pitchers are more often able to hit the strike zone in a relief role. Also, plenty of scouts have noted that they see Meyer as a shutdown reliever, rather than a starter, when it comes to learn term projections. The problem is that his frame and mechanics may also throw their own wrench into that situation. The majority of major league players are not going to be free swingers, and although success has been achieved before, struggles have taken place at the highest levels of his career. Walking batters out of the bullpen is no less of an issue than it is out of the rotation.

Then the age of Meyer comes into play.

Minnesota is not yet to the point where giving up on Meyer the starter is a real thing. At 25 however, the leash can't be long, especially because they have seen no return on their trade investment from three years ago. Should the organization wait another year to get Meyer shifted towards a bullpen focus, they then have an unknown reliever on the wrong side of 25. With that comes the sad reality that a trade made four years prior, produced nothing more than a shot in the dark reliever four years down the road.

Meyer's issues may be organization, there's no denying he achieved success in the Nationals system. They could be a by-product of him growing into his frame, and continuing to learn to pitch rather than just throw to hitters. It all could be completely overblown as well, and Meyer may turn things around in May and make a difference for the Twins in June.

At the end of the day, Minnesota needs to start deciding what the future for Alex Meyer is, and figuring out how to best fit that into their own plans. Right now, because of a multitude of different reasons, that picture is as murky as Meyer's fastball location.

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