Six years after the Washington Nationals drafted Alex Meyer with the 23rd overall pick of the 2011 MLB Draft, the 6’9’’, 27-year-old right-hander took the mound for the Los Angeles Angels and shut the Nats down.
Meyer flirted with a no-hitter Wednesday night, and ended up tossing a total of seven scoreless innings in a 7-0 win against the organization that made him a first-round pick and traded him a year later.
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo and former Scouting Director and current Assistant GM and VP of Scouting Kris Kline heaped praise on Meyer after they selected him as part of a 2011 Draft class that produced three players who were in the game on Wednesday.
Anthony Rendon, the 6th overall pick that season, ended Meyers’ bid for perfection with a two-out walk in the fifth, after he’d retired 14-straight, and Brian Goodwin, the 34th overall selection that June, ended the righty’s no-hit bid in the sixth, connecting for the only hit the lanky righty allowed on the night.
"He's a big power right-handed pitcher,” Rizzo said in June of 2011, on the night of the Draft. “He's got three plus pitches in the future. He's got two present plus pitches. He comes at an extreme downhill angle, he's mid-to-upper 90's consistently, and holds his velocity, and throws a hard, wicked wipeout slider. He's a guy that we feel that even as a college junior, has a big upside left in his development, and a guy that we see has a chance to be a front of the rotation guy."
“Meyer's stuff, if you look at Gerrit Cole's stuff, and this guy's stuff, it's very, very comparable,” Kline said then, after the Nationals drafted Meyer out of the University of Kentucky.
“Both power guys, right now, Gerrit's just more durable, but this kid's gonna fill out and he already is, and he's made great strides from last year early in the year.”
“Just tremendous progress,” Kline added.
“I feel like I throw a firm fastball that can range anywhere in the mid-to-upper 90's at times,” Meyer said when he spoke to reporters after he was selected, “and I think I have a really, really good breaking ball, which this last year at Kentucky worked really well for me. I felt like I could throw it whenever I wanted to, and had a lot of swing and miss with it, so it was a really good pitch for me, which it always has been. But the biggest addition I think has been my changeup that I've been throwing."
On Wednesday, in his 19th major league start, after he was dealt to Minnesota in the deal that brought Denard Span to Washington, D.C., and subsequently traded to LA as a part of the Ricky Nolasco deal with the Twins in 2016, Meyer, who is still very much a work in progress, worked predominantly with a two-seamer and breaking ball.
He got 16 swings, and eight swinging strikes with the 42 curves he threw, and he had 21 breaking balls for strikes not put in play, while getting five outs with the ones that the Nationals managed to hit. Meyer mixed in a four-seamer and change, but worked, for the most part with two pitches, and kept the Nationals off-balance and guessing all night.
“He threw the ball well,” Dusty Baker said, “you can’t take anything away from him. He had a good fastball, 96-97, and then he had us kind of fishing for his breaking ball, and he was effectively wild tonight, where he really — you’re looking for one thing and he’d throw you something else and you’ve got to give the catcher [Martin] Maldonado a lot of credit for directing him through the game, because he knows us. He was tough tonight.”
“We don’t get shut out much, and one-hit ever,” Baker added. “So you’ve just go to give him the credit tonight, he was throwing great.”
In 12 starts before tonight’s, Meyer was (3-5) with a 4.18 ERA, 4.41 FIP, 41 walks (6.12 BB/9), and 68 Ks (10.14 K/9) in 60 1⁄3 IP. He returned from a stint with LA’s top minor league affiliate to face the Nationals, and didn’t show any signs of his struggles with command.
“Our report said that he didn’t have very good command, but he had it tonight,” Baker told reporters. “And you could see why he was — I heard he was our [first round] draft choice, you can see why. He’s throwing downhill, he’s so tall, and he just threw a good game tonight.”
“He found a way to get pitches into the zone,” Angels’ skipper Mike Scioscia said after LA earned a split of the two-game set. “His ball/strike ratio was terrific.”
“He started that when he went down and had his one start in Triple-A. He was very impressive and I think he found a great rhythm and he pitched. Had the velocity when he wanted it, but got his breaking ball over and actually threw some good changeups too.”
“That lineup is packed,” Scioscia continued, “and to get through it, seven innings, and give up one hit and one walk, and really command counts the way he did, it says a lot about his upside and his potential.”