Former top prospect Meyer tries to bounce back

Twins right-hander is coming off an inconsistent 2015 season

Former top prospect Meyer tries to bounce back

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Despite entering last season as the club's top pitching prospect, Twins right-hander Alex Meyer finds himself almost a forgotten man this spring after his 2015 struggles.

Meyer, 26, was ranked as baseball's No. 29 overall prospect by MLBPipeline.com heading into 2015, but after being moved to the bullpen at Triple-A Rochester following early-season struggles as a starter and a rough first stint in the Majors, he fell off most prospect lists.

Instead, much of the hype at Twins camp surrounds fellow hard-throwing relief prospects Nick Burdi, J.T. Chargois, Jake Reed and Mason Melotakis even though the 6-foot-9 Meyer still possesses a fastball that reaches the high 90s and a devastating knuckle curve.

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So while Meyer is no longer a Top 100 prospect, the Twins still believe he can be a major part of the bullpen this season and aren't worried if the buzz is about other up-and-coming power arms, as it's a testament to their strong farm system and not an indictment of Meyer's potential.

"I think that's just the nature of how it works," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "A lot of talk this winter was about the arms that are coming, and he was in that conversation probably more than most of those guys a couple years ago. But those guys have matured and gained experience, so now it's more about the guys we haven't brought up yet instead of Alex, who has been around for a little bit."

Meyer, acquired in the trade that sent Denard Span to the Nationals before the 2013 season, made eight starts with a 7.09 ERA at Triple-A Rochester before he was moved to relief. He thrived in that role initially with a 0.53 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 17 innings and was called up to the Majors for the first time in late June. But Meyer made just two appearances with the Twins, allowing five runs in 2 2/3 innings, including three homers.

He stayed in a rut after being sent back down, posting a 7.65 ERA over his next 20 innings with Rochester but then closed out the season with 17 2/3 scoreless frames.

"I was just super inconsistent," Meyer said. "There were some times where I thought I was doing super good. When I first went to the bullpen, I did really well. But I came up and struggled, went back down and struggled, but then finished the year feeling like myself again. I think I went almost 20 innings without giving up a run. So it's something to build off of."

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Meyer said the key is reducing walks and correcting his arm angle, which dropped during the 2015 season, hurting his ability to induce ground balls with his fastball and causing his curveball to spin side to side instead of downward. He worked on fixing it throughout the offseason and spent time early in camp working with guest instructor LaTroy Hawkins, who went through a similar move to the bullpen as a 6-foot-5 starter before thriving in relief in a 21-season career. There's still a chance Meyer could go back to starting this season or in the future, according to general manager Terry Ryan, but with their rotation depth, they view Meyer as a bullpen piece for now.

"The main thing is my arm slot and working to get it back up," Meyer said. "After watching film last year, I was dang near close to sidearm, which is something where I've never been a guy who's thrown over the top, but I've never been someone who threw sidearmed. So I need to get back to that and keep my arm up and hide the ball a little better."

Meyer has pitched just once this spring, tossing a scoreless inning with a strikeout and two walks against the Pirates on Friday. He's scheduled to see action again Thursday and Saturday and is looking forward to showing the Twins he still has the stuff that made him such a top prospect.

"I'm ready to take the next step," Meyer said. "I'm confident as ever."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.