Blue Jays: First-Round Candidate Max Meyer

The Toronto Blue Jays have the fifth overall pick in the 2020 MLB June Amateur Draft, scheduled for June 10th and 11th.

As with any draft, there is much speculation concerning what player the Blue Jays will select. Keith Law of The Athletic named Max Meyer as a player for whom the Blue Jays have an interest.

This article will review the Meyer candidacy, and it will draw upon the summaries published by Baseball America (“BA”), Baseball Prospectus (“BP”), and MLB.com. For reference purposes, Table 1 contains FanGraphs Tool Grades; Table 2 reflects the FanGraphs Future Value Chart.

Background

Meyer is a 21-year old, right-handed pitcher who is 6-feet tall and weighs 185 pounds. He was drafted in the 2017 Draft by the Minnesota Twins in the 34th round. However, Meyer instead elected to enroll in the University of Minnesota. He was a two-time member of Team USA’s Collegiate National Team. In his collegiate career, Meyer recorded a 2.06 ERA as a reliever in 2018 and became a starter the next season. In 76.2 innings as a 2019 starter, he produced a 2.11 ERA and a 10.2 K/9. In the 2020 shortened campaign, Meyer had four starts, a team-low 1.95 ERA, and a team-high 46 strikeouts across 27 2/3 innings.

Fastball

BA noted that Meyer’s fastball is a 70-grade offering that “he runs up to 97-98 and holds in the mid-90s deep into outings”. BP concurs with that assessment of him, who they describe as having an “electric fastball touching triple digits with late movement.”

MLB.com assigned a 70-grade to Meyer’s fastball.

Secondary Pitches

According to BA, Meyer’s slider is also a 70-grade pitch that is “the best slider in the 2020 class”. Furthermore, “the pitch is one of the better amateur sliders that many scouts have seen in years.” Some evaluators said it is “the best amateur slider they’ve ever scouted. The pitch is not only hard, getting up to 92 or even 93 mph, but it has tremendous movement and depth”.

Not to be outdone, BP said that his slider is “a tight, late-biting pitch with more downward plane than horizontal break.” Additionally, BP’s view is that “the separator on the pitch is the velocity … giving the hitter little choice but to protect against the heater or the breaking ball”.

From the BA report, Meyer has a “changeup that he tried to improve this season. It is in the mid-80s with slight tailing life and a chance to get to an above-average ceiling”. BP is less enthused about his curveball, which they described as “below average in terms of both movement and command, necessitating a fair amount of development.”

MLB.com gave a 70-grade to Meyer’s slider; his changeup received a 55-grade.

Command

Overall, the BA report stated that Meyer “has a strong history of throwing quality strikes” and highlighted explicitly that he “has an excellent command of his slider.”

For followers of the Blue Jays, BP made a noteworthy comparison “(Meyer’s) delivery is dynamic, occasionally drawing minor inspiration from Marcus Stroman.” More importantly, BP is not as high on his command, as is BA. “The control generally is fine, as he has maintained a consistent walk rate year-to-year.” BP concluded by stating that “video shows a lack of command even on his two most reliable pitches. Having such a hyper-live arm may prevent him from ever having fringe-average command or control”.

MLB.com did not provide a grade on Meyer’s command but did give him a 55-grade on control.

Concerns

As noted in their evaluation, BA acknowledged that “Meyer is undersized at 6-foot, 180 pounds”. However, they observed that “there’s not a disconcerting amount of effort in his delivery, and he also has a strong history of throwing quality strikes.”

Compared to BA, BP is more cautious. Specifically, “Meyer is antithetical to your typical starting pitcher usually taken in the top half of the draft. Standing only 6-foot and without completing a full year in a starting role, teams putting a premium on track record will be wondering if his body can sustain a 200-inning workload. It’s not suggesting he can’t—only that it’s unknown. Further obscuring his future in the rotation is the absence of a usable third pitch”.

Future value/rank

Meyer is the #10-ranked player on BA’s prospect list; BP placed him #8 on their roll. MLB gave an overall 55-grade to Meyer and put him #9 on their prospect list.

BA concluded that Meyer, because of his early-season performance, “went from a late-first round arm to a potential top-10 pick.”

In the forecast section of its report, BP spoke of the impact of the shortened 2020 college season on scouting for the upcoming draft. BP explained that most players fall into one of three categories regarding their spring draft stock: helped, hurt, or did nothing to change the industry consensus. Meyer is “one of a tiny fourth group who not only greatly helped himself but also opened the door for more scrutiny.” However, the curtailed 2020 college season eliminated further examination.

In their final judgement, BP identified the question of whether Meyer will be an MLB reliever or a starter. His performance was so dominant that scouts needed to see more to believe what their eyes were telling them … it speaks volumes that he remains one of the top pitching prospects. That is what a plus fastball (or better) and double-plus slider can do for you, with an innate ability to avoid contact and strike batters out”.

It is interesting to note the following comment from BP: “Meyer has the built-in buffer of knowing he could potentially pitch in a big-league bullpen as soon as this season. Yes, you read that correctly. A team with playoff aspirations, expanded or not, could plug-and-play Meyer in an attempt to assemble the best team in a short amount of time. Answering his future role can be left until after the season, with the talent to be a dynamic pitcher for years”.

MLB.com summed up their evaluation of Meyer with “there are questions as to whether Meyer can start at the highest level, mainly coming because he’s a lean 6-footer. But he’s also a quality athlete who repeats a fluid delivery and fills the strike zone. He was so dominant in the short 2020 season, so he has plenty of believers”.

The last word

Meyer is an intriguing prospect. He profiles as a mid-closer or quite possibly a high closer. Yet, he showed such dominance as a starter, albeit in a relatively low number of innings, that he could be a #3 starter or higher. Assuming Law is correct about their interest, would the Blue Jays take a chance on Meyer?