HOUSTON—It's not hard to envision Alex Meyer blowing away big league hitters someday with his overpowering fastball and power breaking ball. There might not be a better example in the 2011 draft class of a huge-reward, high-risk talent than Kentucky's 6-foot-8 junior righthander. In that way, he's similar to former North Carolina State righthander Andrew Brackman, another very tall pitcher with sometimes-overwhelming stuff, and another Scott Boras Corp. advisee who required a significant financial investment from the club that drafted him. Meyer already turned down a reported $2 million out of high school from the Red Sox, and he doesn't figure to be an easy sign as a college junior, either.
But in front of a throng of scouting heavyweights Saturday at Minute Maid Park, Meyer showed enough tantalizing promise that some scouts were clamoring that he could very well go in the top 10 picks this June.
"Somebody's going to bite hard on Meyer," a National League scouting director said. "They'll see two potential 70 pitches (on the 20-80 scouting scale)—the fastball and the breaking ball. I see the breaking ball as more of a 60. I think he's a reliever (down the road)—he just won't throw enough strikes."
Meyer struck out six and walked three over 6 2/3 innings Saturday against Houston, allowing four earned runs on five hits. He had limited the Cougars to just one run until the seventh, when UK coach Gary Henderson said the game sped up on him a bit.
"It was the fourth time through the lineup, they'd seen some fastballs, they were on it," Meyer said of Houston's seventh, which turned into a six-run rally, propeling the Cougars to an 8-5 win. "I probably should have thrown some more offspeed. They ended up getting the barrel on some breaking balls too, but mostly fastballs."
Meyer's fastball was explosive for most of the game, ranging from 94-97 mph. He also mixed in two-seamer at 91-93 toward the end of his outing. He said he uses the two-seamer and an 84-86 changeup to give hitters a different look.
Meyer's breaking ball is hard, at 84-86 mph, but he said it's actually a knuckle curveball, not a slider. One National League crosschecker commented that it looked like Bert Blyleven's hammer curveball when he threw a good one, but at other times it was more sweepy.
"It depends if I stay on top of it—I try to stay on top of it to get more of a 12-6 action on it, but there are some I hook a little bit and get a slider action on," Meyer said. "It's something I have to get better and more consistent with. Someday I'm going to get it figured out and get a good one."
Henderson doesn't think that day is too far off.
"Where his secondary stuff was (Saturday) was noticeably below his skill level," Henderson said. "It wasn't as good as it was in Charleston (in Week One), but it was better than it was last week. But he's got legitimate front-line secondary stuff, and what we need to do is get it to show up on a regular basis in the game. When it does, his game's going to change, but he's clearly not there yet, in terms of repeating the delivery with those pitches and putting himself in position to really put guys away when he's got guys 1-2, 0-2. We've got way too many 0-1s turning into full counts, deep counts. Those are all things he can get better at, and all things he has gotten beter at. He's got a lot of growth in front of him; he's going to get better, and he can get better next weekend."
Repeating his delivery has always been a major key for Meyer, who grew up in Indiana and had far less innings under his belt than prospects from the Sun Belt. He said that his arm slot—which ranges from three-quarters to low three-quarters—is not as consistent as it's going to be, because he's still growing into his body, but that it's getting better.
"It's early effort, torso rotation, getting into the pitch too soon," Henderson said of Meyer's mechanical inconsistencies. "He hasn't invented anything—these are things that guys do all the time. They just seem to be a little more extreme with a guy who's 6-foot-8 with extremely long arms. But I'm not disappointed with his outing by any stretch—in no way am I disappointed. But he's going to keep gettiing better."
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