After selecting Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon with their first pick in Monday’s Major League Baseball draft, the Nationals were far from finished. Next up was right-handed pitcher Alex Meyer (University of Kentucky), the No. 23 overall pick. Few college players have better stuff than Meyer, who is 6-foot-9 and 220 pounds. He has a blazing fastball, hitting the upper 90s at times this season, and a wipeout slider that is death on right-handed batters. Even his change-up could be a plus weapon in future years, according to general manager Mike Rizzo. Meyer’s issue? He dropped this far because his gangly body doesn’t lend itself to good mechanics. Walks have hurt him at times, especially his first two seasons. But Washington’s scouts are confident Meyer has made the necessary improvements that will continue as a pro. Meyer’s ERA as a freshman (7.06) and a sophomore (5.73) at Kentucky were dicey before putting it together in 2011 at 7-5 with a 2.94 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 101 innings.
“Just the ability to keep his delivery together,” said Washington director of scouting Kris Kline. “Right now he’s better out of the stretch. Gets a little methodical from the wind-up, which is a good thing for him. It helps keep him together. He’s getting closer as far as that goes. But this guy has a chance to be a top-of-the-rotation starter. Worst case scenario you got a Josh Bard-type reliever with a better slider and somebody that can anchor the back of your bullpen.”
Meyer wasn’t physically or mentally ready after being drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the first round in 2008 and getting presented with a $2 million bonus offer. But something clicked in the fall of 2010 and his last four or five starts he dominated some of the best teams in the powerful Southeastern Conference. Washington had Meyer in the mix for that No. 6 spot before Rendon fell to them and didn’t think he’d last long enough to reach them again at 23.
How good is he? “If you look at [No. 1 overall pick] Gerrit Cole’s stuff and Meyer’s stuff it’s very, very comparable,” Kline said. “Both power guys. Right now Gerrit is just more durable. But this kid’s going to fill out. He already is. And he’s made great strides from last year early in the year when we saw him to now. Just tremendous progress.”
The development staff will want Meyer to smooth out his delivery, according to Rizzo. With professional coaching and repetition they are confident that will happen. And, yes, Meyer is another Scott Boras client. The Nats have flipped the script here and appear to take only Boras players now. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But Rizzo gets to spend some more quality time with Boras and company this summer. Good times!
At No. 34 the organization picked outfielder Brian Goodwin, who played at North Carolina and then Miami-Dade Junior College. Shocker, yes, I know: But Goodwin also has Boras as a client. He committed an academic infraction while at North Carolina and had to transfer, but Roy Clark, Nats’ vice president of player personnel and a Tar Heel himself, said after extensive investigation the team was confident that issue was behind Goodwin.
Washington thinks Goodwin can be a top-of-the-order hitter with some power. He’s a fast runner and the staff had no qualms about his defensive abilities in center field. Also a patient hitter with a good idea of the strike zone. Played mostly corner outfield at North Carolina, but Clark said the staff only saw him in center at Miami-Dade and in the Cape Cod League last summer and Goodwin more than held his own there.
All three players are likely headed to some version of Class A ball whenever they sign – though it’s too soon to know where yet, Rizzo said. Rendon might have to take some time off to rest his ailing shoulder this summer. He gutted through the pain in deference to his Rice teammates during the season.
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