The Marlins are set to promote top pitching prospect Max Meyer, the team announced on Twitter (with video of him learning the news). Craig Mish of SportsGrid reports (Twitter link) that Meyer will start on Saturday against the Phillies.
It’ll be the major league debut for the right-hander, who flew through the minors. Miami selected Meyer with the third overall pick in the 2020 draft. The University of Minnesota product was the first pitcher off the board, and he’s excelled over his first two years in pro ball. There was no minor league season during his draft year because of the pandemic, and the Fish aggressively assigned Meyer to Double-A Pensacola for his first game action in 2021.
Meyer handled the assignment with aplomb, pitching to a 2.41 ERA through 20 starts. He punched out an above-average 27.2% of opponents while inducing ground-balls on more than half the batted balls he surrendered. Meyer’s walks were a touch high, but it was a promising showing for his first full pro season. He earned a late-season cameo at Triple-A Jacksonville and headed into last offseason as one of the sport’s better pitching prospects.
Entering the 2022 campaign, each of Baseball America, FanGraphs and Kiley McDaniel of ESPN slotted Meyer among the game’s top 100 overall prospects. He drew praise for a mid-upper 90s fastball and a slider that some evaluators considered the best single pitch in the 2020 draft class. The quality of his changeup was a bit more divisive, with FanGraphs and ESPN projecting it to average or better but BA considering it more of a fringy offering.
Meyer isn’t necessarily regarded as a future ace. BA and Keith Law of the Athletic (who slotted him fifth in the Miami system heading into the year) each noted that some evaluators point to his lack of pinpoint fastball command as a reason to project a potential bullpen future. That said, all four outlets suggested Meyer has the potential to be an above-average, mid-rotation or better arm if his command comes along. The Marlins will surely give him every opportunity to cement himself in the starting five over the coming seasons.
This year, the 23-year-old has continued to overpower upper minors hitters. He’s made 12 starts with the Jumbo Shrimp, tossing 58 innings of 3.72 ERA ball. He has a 28.4% strikeout percentage with a 50% grounder rate, and he’s cut his walk rate slightly from 9.6% in Double-A to 8.3% this season. Meyer spent a month on the injured list between mid-May and June, but he’s allowed two or fewer runs in each of his four starts since returning.
It remains to be seen whether Meyer will hold a rotation spot for good now that he’s headed to the big leagues, but there should be an opportunity if the club feels he’s ready for consistent run against MLB hitters. Miami’s top three is set in stone. Sandy Alcantara is performing at a Cy Young level, and Pablo López is having another excellent year. Trevor Rogers has had a disappointing first half, but he’s certainly not in danger of losing a rotation spot after an All-Star 2021 campaign.
The final two spots have been more questionable, in part due to injury. Elieser Hernández and Jesús Luzardo opened the year fourth and fifth on the depth chart. Hernández had a dreadful first few months and was eventually optioned to Jacksonville. He’s since been recalled but has worked in long relief. Luzardo, meanwhile, hit the injured list in May with a forearm strain and has yet to return to the big leagues. Sixto Sánchez hasn’t pitched all season, while Cody Poteet and Edward Cabrera have been on the IL for a while.
Former first-rounder Braxton Garrett has pitched well through seven starts since replacing Hernández in the rotation last month. Daniel Castano has stepped into the #5 role and held his own, working to a 4.35 ERA over six starts. He’s only striking out around 13% of hitters, though, so Meyer will certainly be a more high-octane option. Castano still has an option year remaining, and he can head back to Jacksonville or work out of the major league bullpen as needed.
The upcoming series is critical for the Marlins, who sit at 43-45. They’re three games back in the Wild Card standings. The Phils are one of two teams between them and the Cardinals, who currently hold the final playoff spot in the National League. The next two and a half weeks could shape how general manager Kim Ng and her staff approach the upcoming trade deadline, and they’ll turn to one of the sport’s most interesting young arms at this pivotal stage of the season.
Meyer is not on the 40-man roster, so the Marlins will have to formally select his contract on Saturday. Miami’s 40-man roster is full, but they can clear a roster spot by transferring one of their injured pitchers from the 15-day to the 60-day injured list. Reliever Anthony Bender has already missed almost two months and just began a rehab assignment today, so transferring him would be little more than a formality.
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.