Kentucky ace Alex Meyer has always had tantalizing raw stuff. Tall and lanky, he was a top high school prospect coming out of the Indiana prep ranks three years ago, a year after Jarrod Parker came from that state as a first-round pick. He was raw, projectable and, it turned out, unsignable. The Red Sox took a shot in the 20th round, but Meyer headed to the University of Kentucky instead.
The next two years were not particularly noteworthy. Meyer had a 5.73 ERA as a freshman, serving as the team's Sunday starter. He dealt with mono in his sophomore year and was still wildly inconsistent, finishing with a 7.03 ERA. Still, at 6-foot-9 and armed with a plus fastball, there was hope he'd start to put it together.
Lo and behold, he has. Meyer has a 2.98 ERA in his 12 starts and that plus power stuff -- he has an outstanding slider to go along with a fastball that gets up to 96 mph -- has led to 96 strikeouts in 87 2/3 innings. His command -- a big reason for his struggles in the past -- isn't perfect, but it's improved to the point of it being fringy average, and he has been getting ahead of hitters. Meyer has also started showing a usable changeup. It won't wow anyone, but it's enough to make him a much more complete pitcher. If that keeps coming, he has a chance to be a starter, and not a short reliever, in the future.
What's giving him the most helium, however, is what he did last Friday. One start does not a prospect make, but Meyer's outing against Vanderbilt certainly has helped his stock. The right-hander not only shut out one of the best college teams in the country, but he outdueled fellow Draft prospect Sonny Gray. It was one of those Friday night matchups that become a must-see for scouts, crosscheckers and scouting directors, so a whole lot of eyes were on Meyer as he tossed a complete-game five-hitter in which he walked just one batter. A few more like that and Meyer's name could start floating to the top half of the first round, where he could end up being this year's version of Matt Harvey, another first-round talent out of high school who was up and down his first two years of college, but then went No. 7 to the Mets a year ago.
Lead balloon update
While there don't appear to be too many names in freefall just yet, there are some who's performances have led to a gradual re-evaluation of where they stand.
Case in point: Coastal Carolina's Anthony Meo. There's still a lot to like about Meo, CCU's Friday starter. He's had fairly good performances, results-wise, and he has the chance to have two plus pitches in his fastball and slider. But those who had him up higher among the top group of college arms may have been hoping he'd show enough in terms of a changeup and command to prove he could be a starter at the next level. That hasn't really happened. And with some effort to his delivery, most see him as a short reliever, likely moving him down a peg or two. That being said, his raw stuff should play very well in that role and should still have him off the board before the sandwich round is over.
Something to prove
Kent State lefty ace Andrew Chafin had Tommy John surgery in May 2009, forcing him to redshirt his sophomore campaign in '10. That first year back after surgery can often be a little uneven, but Chafin has actually been outstanding as the school's Friday starter, with a 1.60 ERA, .194 batting average against and 87 strikeouts vs. just 16 walks in 67 1/3 innings.
In that regard, he has nothing to prove. But Chafin was forced to miss a start two weeks ago due to arm soreness, something that was sure to raise an eyebrow or two given his medical history. He returned to action last week, but only in relief, allowing three runs on seven hits over four innings. He's scheduled to return to his regular Friday spot in the rotation this weekend against Bowling Green, giving him his first real opportunity to prove that everything is just fine with that left arm.
On the Shelf
The biggest injury news of the Draft season has come from Matt Purke, the immensely talented Draft-eligible sophomore from Texas Christian University. Purke, who was a first-round pick of the Rangers two years ago but didn't sign, was thought to be perhaps the top college lefty in the class before the season began.
First, he had a blister problem -- not a long-term concern. But when Purke was shut down with a shoulder issue, there's no question alarm bells went off in many scouts' heads. Purke was examined by Dr. James Andrews, who proclaimed it was bursitis and did not require surgery. He's progressing through what TCU is calling a "re-entry throwing program." The hope was that he'd be back in time to pitch a bit before conference tournament play, and so far, so good, with tentative plans for the lefty to make an appearance in the New Mexico series which begins May 19. Purke was expected to be a tough sign even before the shoulder discomfort, and now he'll have to come back and show he's truly sound physically before anyone is likely to take a shot in the early stages of the Draft.
Where to be:
Take your pick: Charlottesville, Va., or Atlanta. It would be hard to go wrong as the college season winds towards the end of the regular season.
Here's a travel plan: Start the weekend on Friday in Virginia to see lefty Danny Hultzen on the mound for UVa. Hultzen has been as good as anyone in the college game, and after a week off for the Cavaliers, it might be interesting to see how much stronger he is against Miami, which is ranked No. 16 by Baseball America. Virginia, if you were curious, currently holds the top spot.
On Saturday, head on down to Georgia to see the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. On the mound will be perhaps the No. 2 lefty in the Draft class, Jed Bradley. Bradley hasn't been quite as dominant lately, and a lot of eyes will be on him to see how he performs against the North Carolina Tar Heels, the No. 17 ranked team in the nation. North Carolina has first-round hopeful, shortstop Levi Michael, in the lineup against Georgia Tech, ranked No. 13.