By Steve Roney
Denard Span has finally arrived, stepping into a gaping hole in the middle of the outfield and at the top of the lineup – but he didn’t come cheaply.
Going back to Minnesota is righty Alex Meyer, the 6’9” flame-throwing 2011 first-round pick out of the University of Kentucky. He spent this past season, his professional debut, making 18 starts at low-A Hagerstown and seven more at high-A in Potomac.
If you knew his name before today, there’s a great chance that you learned it while going to one of those games.
There’s another good chance, however, that we’ll be hearing his name again in a couple years – and depending on the state of the Nationals pitching staff, fans in D.C. might not like what they hear.
Meyer has been highly regarded for years, enough so to garner a reported offer of $2,000,000 to sign with the Red Sox as a 20th round pick out of high school in 2008. He rolled the dice and decided to become a Wildcat, earning that exact amount three years later from the Nats – one of 18 first-round picks to sign for that amount or higher.
The money was there for two reasons: His imposing size, and what that projectable frame meant to his pitch velocity, both current and future. The knock, as often is in these cases, was that Meyer didn’t always know where the ball was going when it left his hand.
In 129 innings during his first professional season, Meyer put up fantastic conventional (10-6, 2.86 ERA, 1.1 WHIP) and peripheral (3.09 strikeouts per walk, 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings) numbers.
Meyer’s debut was an unmitigated success – and though he left off in single-A, a big, 22-year old college product who has finally harnessed his almost unlimited power potential is the sort of pitcher that climbs the minor league ladder two rungs at a time.
Should he build off the momentum of his rookie season and put up numbers like this at each stop – which would certainly be no mean feat, but still – then Alex Meyer could be in the Twins bullpen by September of 2014, and starting by 2015.
With a good, young starting rotation and decent organizational depth, the Nationals front office was willing to part with that potential in return for a player that unquestionably makes the Nats a better, more well-rounded offensive and defensive team.
If anything, it’s a testament to how far the Nationals have come – in years past, Meyer would have been hope for the future. Instead, he was a valuable asset used to improve the team right now.
Even so, the saying goes that you can never have too much pitching, and teams don’t part with arms like Meyer’s lightly.
This trade was a win for the Nationals, especially since Span remains under team control for up to three more years.
Still, Washington’s new centerfielder was no gift – and nobody understands that fact better than the Nationals themselves.