The Nationals have signed first-round draft pick Alex Meyer to a contract worth $2 million, according to industry sources.
The right-handed pitcher from the University of Kentucky was chosen No. 23 overall, one of two compensation picks Washington received for losing first baseman Adam Dunn to free agency. That’s turning into an exceedingly bright move by general manager Mike Rizzo with Dunn is the midst of a disasterous season for the Chicago White Sox.
A 6-foot-9, 220-pounder, Meyer is an intimidating presence on the mound. He can sit comfortably in the middle 90s with his fastball and has a slider capable of making life miserable for right-handed batters. But mechanics are an issue. They always are for tall pitchers. Nats director of scouting Kris Kline noted in June that Meyer can get methodical in his wind-up – actually a good way to slow down his throwing motion. He became a strikeout machine as a junior at Kentucky with 110 in just 101 innings. Meyer dropped his ERA each year with the Wildcats from 7.06 to 5.73 to 2.94 and admits he’s far more ready for the rigors of professional baseball now than when the Boston Red Sox offered him a reported $2 million bonus to sign out of high school.
"I didn't really quit growing until this last year and things really improved for me," Meyer told reporters in June. "But there's still quite a bit that needs to be tuned up and fixed up. I think it's strengthening my body first, but more so repeating my delivery and finding a consistent arm slot to deliver my pitches. Once that happens, I feel like a lot will fall into place for me."
Washington even thought about taking Meyer at No. 6, according to team officials, before Anthony Rendon slipped to them. But he was still there for the second first-round pick and the Nats jumped. So 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.”
But if the mechanics don’t smooth out and command becomes an issue, Washington is confident at worst it has a top-shelf reliever. For now, Meyer gets a chance to prove that he’s much more than that.
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