Will the Red Sox renew their courtship of one who got away in ’08 draft?
|06.06.11 at 1:38 pm ET|
Back in 2008, the Red Sox considered their negotiations with Alex Meyer exciting for the sheer fact that they had no idea what the outcome would be. The team had taken the giant right-hander with a pick in the 20th round, viewing him as the ultimate wild card.
The team felt confident that it would be able to land first-round pick Casey Kelly. As the signing deadline approached, the club also reached a point where it believed that outfielder Ryan Westmoreland — whom it viewed as one of the top 10 players in the 2008 draft class — would also pass on his scholarship offer at Vanderbilt to begin a pro career with the team he’d spent his life rooting for.
But most teams viewed Meyer as completely unsignable, considering his commitment to the University of Kentucky to be iron clad. Based on where they were able to select him – a place where they hadn’t expected the then-18-year-old to be available – the Sox were willing to take a shot on a player who was being advised by Scott Boras.
At the time, Meyer screamed projectability. At 6-foot-7, he showed an ability to command a sinking mid-90s fastball and a hammer curve that made him one of the more impressive high school pitching prospects that year. Baseball America tabbed him as the No. 5 prospect coming out of high school in 2008.
Meyer hailed from a small town in Southeast Indiana. He was named the state’s Mr. Baseball as a senior, when he went 8-0 with a 0.95 ERA and 108 strikeouts in 51 innings. He had power stuff, though he remained raw (as evidenced by his 30 walks that year).
Still, the potential was tantalizing. Meyer looked like a pitcher who would be a project, requiring time to develop consistent mechanics given his size, but the potential upside was obvious.
Meyer and Boras recognized the pitcher’s standing in the draft class. Shortly after the draft, the Sox were told that it would take $4 million for the right-hander to sign.
For most of the rest of the summer, the Sox had little to no contact with him. He met the Sox when they played the Reds in Cincinnati that summer, getting escorted around the clubhouse by then-Assistant GM Jed Hoyer. But there wasn’t much contact after that.
The Sox became pessimistic about the odds of signing Meyer when Kentucky pitching coach Gary Henderson (who had recruited Meyer) was promoted to head baseball coach that summer. That, the Sox expected, would likely seal the deal on convincing Meyer to head to college.
Still, the club decided to take its shot. Days before the Aug. 15 signing deadline, the Sox sent Hoyer aboard owner John Henry‘s private jet to Meyer’s doorstep in Indiana; GM Theo Epstein and scouting director Jason McLeod remained in phone contact with the pitcher’s family. The Sox let the right-hander know that they were willing to pay as much as $2 million to get him to turn pro.
But Meyer never got on the plane to head back to Boston with them for a physical. Without one, there wasn’t going to be a deal.
Meyer ended up going to Kentucky, and it took him a while to get his bearings in SEC play, particularly since he had to work to gain control over his mechanics as he continued to grow (he is now listed at 6-foot-9). As a freshman, he ranked sixth in college with 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings, going 1-4 with a 5.73 ERA. As a sophomore, he hit 100 mph at times, though he again struggled (5-3, 7.06) during a year when he was slammed by mononucleosis.
This year, as a junior, he was able to harness his abilities in a more consistent fashion. He went 7-5 with a 2.94 ERA, striking out 110 in 101 innings. Though his walks total were a bit high (4.1 per 9 innings), he held opponents to a .222 average and allowed just two homers all year, despite being in one of the tougher college conferences around. He worked in the mid-90s, and showed a swing-and-miss slider.
In many respects, Meyer remains on the same developmental path that he was on when the Sox tried to sign him away from Kentucky. His upside remains that of a top-of-the-rotation starter, and he’s a projected first-rounder in this year’s draft.
Indeed, the 21-year-old is on the Sox’ radar as a player whom they might draft anew. Many mock drafts speculate that he could be a Boston target again with one of its two first-round picks (No. 19 and No. 26 overall).
Meyer has made himself eligible to be re-drafted by the Sox (players almost never exercise the power to veto being re-drafted by a club that selected them before; indeed, it has never happened for the Sox under Epstein). Moreover, the team would certainly consider a player whom it liked a great deal in the past, and who now represents a pitcher whose experience more nearly approximates the raw skills that had the Sox prepared to spend mid-first-round money on him.
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