The Royals have long believed that pitching is the currency of baseball, and with a trio of solid college arms at the top of this draft, Kansas City could add to the collection of college pitchers they have selected in the last two drafts. Georgia right-hander Emerson Hancock and Texas A&M left-hander Asa Lacy are considered the two top pitchers in this draft, but right there with them is Minnesota Golden Gophers right-hander Max Meyer.
Meyer went to Woodbury High School in the Minneapolis area where he was selected in the 34th round in 2017 by the hometown Twins. He instead went to the University of Minnesota and was anointed the team closer his freshman season. He posted a 2.06 ERA and tied a school record with 16 saves that season. He transitioned to a starter in 2019, and didn’t skip a beat, posting a 2.11 ERA with 87 strikeouts in 76 2⁄3 innings. He also pitched well for the U.S. Collegiate National team the last two summers.
Meyer was flat out dominating this year before play was shut down, striking out 14 in a complete game start against North Carolina where he allowed just five hits and one run, then following that up with a 15-strikeout performance against the Utah Utes in eight innings. Overall, he struck out 46 in 27 2⁄3 innings with just eight walks and a 1.95 ERA, with opponents hitting just .155 in his four starts.
Baseball America writes that Meyer has “the best pure stuff” of anyone in the 2020 draft class. He brings some of the best velocity in the draft with a fastball that can sit in the mid-90s deep into games and has been known to reach 100 mph.
As good as his fastball is, his slider is even better. MLB Pipeline writes it is the best slider in the draft, while Baseball America writes that some scouts feel it is the best slider they have seen in years. It is described as a wipeout slider in the low 90s that Meyer can throw with good command. Baseball America notes he can “loosen it for strikes or tighten it for chases out of the zone.”
Meyer has worked on a change up, but still has yet to show it much in games. Baseball America writes the pitch has “slight tailing life and a chance to get to an above-average ceiling.”
Meyer is a terrific athlete, also serving as a designated hitter on days he is not pitching. He is also a bulldog on the mound, an attribute the Royals seem to love.
“He’s a fierce competitor,” Minnesota coach John Anderson said. “I think that’s his greatest strength and weakness. I think sometimes it gets in the way because he doesn’t want anybody to hit the ball sometimes.
“You’re not going to get deep in games as a starter if you have that mentality. I think that’s the next step as a pitcher is to learn how to be a little bit more efficient with his pitch count and get deeper in games.”
The knock on Meyer is that he is a bit undersized on his 6’0’’ frame despite adding 15 pounds since coming to college to get up to 185. For that reason, and the fact his change up is still a bit of an unknown, some feel he will be a reliever at higher levels of pro ball. As a reliever, he could rise through the minors quickly, but if a team wants to develop him as a starter, his success will probably depend on his ability to add a third pitch.
Meyer is expected to be among the first ten players selected, with the Blue Jays and Padres connected to him. Baseball America linked the Royals to Meyer in an earlier mock draft. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the #9 prospect in the draft, while Baseball America ranks him #10.
The truncated college season likely hurt a prospect like Meyer who was off to a great start and could have risen up draft boards with a strong spring. He boasts a terrific fastball/slder combo that could get him to the big leagues in a hurry. If he is just a reliever, that likely doesn’t bring the value the Royals would need at the #4 pick. However if the Royals feel his change up can develop to an average pitch and his frame can hold up to a starter’s workload, he may be worth the risk.