Great outing put Meyer on prospect map
Greensburg, Ind. is known more for the height of its cornfields than that of its high school athletes. Alex Meyer, 6-foot-7 and Baseball America's No. 8 high school prospect, just might change that.
"Stuff like this just doesn't happen around here," Alex's father Dave Meyer said. "He's just a small town kid that something special is happening to. If we could have written a script, this is exactly how it would have read."
The script Meyer is speaking of is the story of how an unknown local standout became a highly coveted high school recruit, an All-American and a common name in scouting circles—all within the span of two innings.
On Father's Day, a little over a month after striking out 15 hitters during a first round loss in the Indiana state high school baseball playoffs, Meyer found himself standing on the mound at the Perfect Game National showcase in Cincinnati. It was by far the biggest stage Meyer had ever starred on, and it was by mere coincidence that he was even there. Meyer's summer travel team, the Indiana Bulls, just happened to be playing in a different tournament in Cincinnati the same weekend. Meyer's coach, Quinn Moore, had successfully landed a spot for Alex in the Sunday rotation of the showcase. Even though Meyer had pitched five innings on Thursday in his team's tournament, Moore advised Alex to pitch in the showcase.
"That was his first time pitching in an atmosphere like that. We had never even been to a showcase before," Dave Meyer said.
Meyer's first pitch was 92 mph and he topped out at 95, striking out the side in the first of his two innings of work. He faced only seven hitters, allowing no hits or runs. Meyer had everything working, including his low-80s spike knuckle curveball; which on that day, was a legit out pitch at all levels.
No one saw this as beginners luck as before he could leave the stadium, Meyer accepted an invitation to the Aflaac All-American Game in San Diego and had new text messages from 15 different major Division I programs across the country—none of which he had been in contact with before the event. Things weren't the same for Alex after that.
"Those two innings were life changers," Meyer said. "I wasn't planning on going. I didn't even know what (PG National) was but, after I got back to the car, I knew my life wasn't going to be the same."
This was the catalyst for, and the beginning of, a travel packed summer that often kept Meyer on the road five nights of the week. He was balancing his summer league with trips to showcases such as the World Wood Bat tournament in Marietta, Ga, the East Coast Pro showcase in Lakeland and the Aflac All-American game.
Meyer finished the summer not only with the experience of a lifetime but also invaluable exposure. Interest, in Meyer, from major league scouts more than doubled as they were left intrigued by his heavy fastball with late life, his hard and sometimes unhittable curveball and his 6-foot-7, still to be developed, frame.
Height Of Discussion
Going forward, Meyer's frame will be a popular topic of discussion. For scouts, a pitcher the size of Meyer incites excitement and concern. The ideal pitching height is between 6-1 and 6-3. However, being taller is only advantageous if the player can consistently repeat his delivery. Naturally, a player that is 6-foot-7 can create an angle to the plate that is tougher on hitters. Through principles of physics, the pitcher is able to gain more leverage with more deception, all while pitching downhill on a steeper plane. For a mental image, pull up St. Louis Cardinals righthander, Adam Wainwright closing out the 2006 World Series with his power fastball and hammer curve.
"Being 6-7 is a unique opportunity especially for righthanders. Hitters don't see the ball coming from that angle very often," a National League scout said. "A guy that size can be very intimidating."
However, as with the good comes the bad and without excellent body control, managing long limbs is impossible.
"The thing you are concerned about with big guys is the ability to repeat delivery," an American League scouting director said. "Does he get to the same position time and time again? It's the same things you look for in everyone but you just pay more attention when they're taller."
The pitching motion entails a lot of moving parts and being taller means these parts are longer. Keeping consistency in the delivery and release point is the most challenging aspect of mechanics. Longer limbs create a longer arm swing in the pitching delivery; which in turn makes it harder to stay over the rubber and balanced. This can especially affect the action on a breaking ball. A good breaking ball has sharp, late, two-plane downward life. Inconsistencies lead to erratic command while also causing the pitch to sometimes hang, back up, or flatten out. Other than injuries, this may be a reason for Tampa Rays' 2004 first round pick Jeff Niemman's slow development. Even though he is close to reaching the major leagues, he has taken longer than the Rays had hoped as his 6-foot-9 frame combined with his especially long arm action have given Niemman consistency issues ever since his college days at Rice.
Meyer's size and abilities follow this mold but, similar to Wainwright, his athleticism gives him an advantage. Either on the basketball court or the baseball field, Meyer has proven to be coordinated with good body control.
"His delivery wasn't a gangly delivery that fell apart," said John Mirabelli, Indians' assistant general manager, scouting operations. "It stayed together pretty well for him, and for a big guy, that's imperative."
During the winter, Meyer plays basketball for Greensburg, averaging 15 points per game. Following games on Friday and Saturday night, Meyer works hard to polish his delivery, making a two and a half hour drive to Lafayette every Sunday morning to work with former major leaguer and current Indians' minor league pitching coach Erik Sabel.
Adjusting to his body's growth has been his toughest challenge as Meyer has constantly been growing through out his high school career.
"I grew so quickly that I was so uncoordinated coming in, " Meyer said.
As a freshman he was just over six feet tall, shooting to 6-foot-5 by the beginning of his sophomore year. He's now 6-foot-7 and it's possible he will get even taller.
Major league scouts may have more to worry about than Meyer's height and delivery. The fruits of Alex's summer also bore a scholarship to pitch for the University of Kentucky and signability will become a factor. The way in which Meyer performs this spring will have a major impact on the intensity of the debate, but the inevitable question, as for so many high school players, will be: college or pro?
"Right now, when I wake up, I'm going to Kentucky," Meyer said. "A (major league) team will have to pull me away from going to school."
Even though he lives three hours away, in Indiana, Meyer has been a Kentucky fan his whole life and loves the idea of playing in the SEC. However, pitching in the major leagues has always been his dream.
"It's a win-win situation. I love baseball and have always wanted to play in the pros," Meyer said. "Then again I have always wanted to go to Kentucky and that would be a great thing also."