The Marlins have never sent one of their MLB Draft picks directly to the majors without first gaining minor league experience. In the absence of a 2020 MiLB season, could they make an exception for right-hander Max Meyer? Jon Heyman floated it as a possibility on Friday:
Marlins are strongly considering and even likely to include No. 3 overall pick Max Meyer, flame-throwing U. of Minnesota RHP, in their 60-player pool at camp. assuming he signs. He is very close to a deal. They believe he could be quick to the majors.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) June 26, 2020
The draft’s No. 3 overall pick earlier this month, Meyer had extraordinary success at the University of Minnesota—2.13 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 187 K in 148.0 IP from 2018-2020. He was similarly effective for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team the past two summers. Meyer’s slider was touted across the scouting industry as arguably the best individual pitch in this draft class. That’s not a knock on his fastball, which comfortably sits in the high-90s and maxes out in the triple digits.
Batter flinched so badly at that first slider https://t.co/weOe6AukX3— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) June 26, 2020
With plus-plus stuff and very good command and a fresh arm after being limited to only 27 2⁄3 innings during the 2020 NCAA season, why can’t Meyer reinforce the Marlins pitching staff right away?
Well, let’s begin with the basics: he hasn’t even joined the organization yet! Heyman reported on draft night—two-and-a-half weeks ago—that a deal was already in place. However, while most 2020 draftees are officially signed, the Marlins are moving more deliberately with their guys.
Any cause for concern? Probably not. Meyer stated publicly that he is “very excited to join the Marlins,” and the Marlins official social media accounts released custom phone wallpapers featuring each of their draftees’ names on Fish uniforms (Meyer, Dax Fulton, Kyle Nicolas, Zach McCambley, Jake Eder and Kyle Hurt). The deadline to sign isn’t until Aug. 1. It will get done by then.
But the Marlins must submit their initial 60-man Player Pool for the 2020 season by 4 p.m. ET on Sunday. If Meyer isn’t signed in time for that, the team would need to create room for him during the season by trading or releasing a more experienced player. Also keep in mind that MLB active rosters will gradually shrink in size from 30 spots on Opening Day to 28 spots after two weeks, then down to 26 spots for the final month-plus of the season. It will be easier to get prospects acclimated to the majors early on when there’s that extra flexibility.
My suspicion is that Heyman’s Friday scoop is part of the negotiating process, with team sources teasing the possibility of a 2020 debut in order to get Meyer’s camp to make small concessions that get the deal across the finish line. It doesn’t reflect their actual plans for him.
As Tony Wolfe of FanGraphs illustrates, the shortened season creates more chaos. There’s no such thing as a playoff lock when dealing with such a limited sample, cracking open the door for underdogs.
Unfortunately, the Marlins barely gain any advantage from the new format. Two-thirds of their 2020 games will now be played versus NL East opponents with “win now” mandates; the other one-third comes against the AL East, which is no cakewalk, either. Their strength of schedule is extremely hard, according to ZiPS projections.
Why would the Marlins start the service time clock on Meyer this year when their chances to compete are so slim and when they already have talented pitching prospects with high minors experience like Sixto Sánchez, Edward Cabrera, Nick Neidert and Jorge Guzman on the 40-man roster? I don’t believe they would.
Nonetheless, being part of the Player Pool is important to Meyer’s development, allowing him to train in Jupiter alongside veterans. If healthy throughout the summer and fall, he figures to begin 2021 at either High-A Jupiter or Double-A Jacksonville. Consistent performance from there could realistically lead him to Marlins Park later that year.
It came as a surprise to almost everybody when the Marlins made Meyer their top draft pick. College stars Spencer Torkelson, Austin Martin and Asa Lacy were generally seen as the top three prospects in the class, and two of them were still on the board for Miami!
Marlins insider Craig Mish explained on his podcast Thursday that the front office had narrowed down this all-important decision to Meyer vs. Lacy. Ultimately, “they simply thought that Meyer’s stuff is better than Lacy’s.”
Director of amateur scouting DJ Svihlik was effusive in his praise for Meyer afterwards, emphasizing his lethal fastball/slider combo and competitiveness. Svihlik made comparisons between him and other right-handers who had Cy Young-caliber peaks despite being listed at six-foot and under, including Tim Lincecum.
After taking a few days to process the news, most Marlins fans felt comfortable with the addition of Meyer, per SB Nation Reacts. Nearly nine of every 10 survey respondents gave the pick an A or B grade:
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