The Unicorn: Max Meyer Defines Modern Day Scouting

Written by: Mason McRae (@Mason_McRae)

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When the Miami Marlins selected Max Meyer 3rd overall in the 2020 MLB Draft, the organization encapsulated the drastic effects of analytics, and its recent, vast impact on evaluating players.

It’s no secret that teams have turned to a more data-oriented approach when scouting. Models have cluttered today’s scouting industry, and progressive organizations continue to ramp up their emphasis on data prioritization as opposed to the old school approach of the eye test and checking the boxes of traditional, coveted qualities.

In the midst of an analytics era, the MLB Draft might have officially hit a turning point this June. If the selection of a six-footer at third overall (the first time this century that’s happened) wasn’t enough, we also witnessed the first right-handed hitting first baseman go first overall out of college. Not only has pitch movement, design and efficiency taken over the pitching side of baseball, but batted ball and swing profiles have taken over the hitting side, which led to prospects who possess merely passable defensive skills (Torkelson, Foscue, Sabato, Wells) skyrocketing on draft boards.

I’ve said this half jokingly on Twitter, but if Max Meyer went to college a decade ago, he’d have gone 27th overall, like the undersized Sonny Gray did in 2011. But teams have become more savvy, and the Marlins weren’t about to let a potential star slip out of their hands, regardless of their draft slot.

When you look at Meyer’s profile, you immediately become infatuated with two of the best pitches in the entire draft class, including a high-velocity fastball and a wicked, sharp slider. Both pitches just so happen to be extremely model friendly. The right-hander’s third pitch—a changeup that flashes plus fade and increased effectiveness due to Meyer’s arm speed—would be the best pitch for numerous other pitchers who were drafted last month. There’s an overwhelming amount of swing-and-miss life within this arsenal, and the digger you deep, the better this profile seems to get.

Meyer’s fastball, a pitch that he threw 152 times in his junior season, averaged out at 96.3 mph. His extension (6.69’), in relevance to his height, is above average, which plays into his perceived velo being 97.6 mph this past spring. One of the nitpicks from Meyer’s profile is a fastball that he cuts, which makes the elite raw spin numbers (2515 RPM) somewhat of a misrepresentation of the pitch. Not that it really matters too much, as Meyer’s combination of above average vertical movement and a relatively flat approach angle create a ‘rising’ illusion on his heaters. Pairing those with his velocities and extension give you one of the better pitches in a draft class. If Miami can work to eliminate the cut of his fastball – which would subsequently improve the spin efficiency of the pitch –  it could become an 80-grade pitch at its peak.

Thrown at 89.8 mph on average, Meyer’s slider could go head-to-head with just about any pitch from any amateur pitching prospect I’ve seen. As is true with most of the right-hander’s profile, the pitch perfectly fits the current trajectory of Major League Baseball; its minimal vertical movement paired with slight horizontal break make it out to be more of a cutter than a slider at times. He gets elite raw spin on the pitch (2756 RPM), which directly correlates to his elite swing-and-miss numbers (47.0%) when throwing the pitch

Meyer’s arsenal is capped off with a criminally underrated changeup that’s thrown around 86 MPH, which flawlessly compliments the fastball. A raw spin rate around 1950 RPM and extension numbers just shy of 7-feet don’t necessarily make the pitch stand out compared to the changeups of other pitchers, but the right-hander’s changeup is still highly effective thanks to electric arm speed, the gaudy profile of his fastball and how well the the two pitches tunnel and play off one another.

One of the more invigorating parts of Meyer’s profile is his picture perfect ability to generate elite numbers with such minimal body mass behind his pitches. Likewise to most six-footers throwing triple-digits, Meyer is just an incredible athlete—possibly the best in the 2020 class—and he’s honestly got the most aesthetically pleasing delivery I’ve ever seen. While new research has shown hip/shoulder separation may not be as important to velocity as long perceived, you’d be foolish to think it doesn’t at least play some part in the results. 

Truth be told, Meyer has been one of my favorite case studies in recent memory, and while he was only 4th on my pre-draft board, there’s a good chance he actually belonged a spot higher, which would place him above Emerson Hancock as the top pitcher on my board. 

There’s a reason Meyer became the only six-foot (or shorter) pitcher selected this high in the 21st century, and for those of you Marlins fans wishing your favorite team had taken Texas A&M’s Asa Lacy instead, allow me to offer you two words of advice: just wait.

Follow P365 MLB Draft Analyst Mason McRae on Twitter! @Mason_McRae

Follow us on Twitter! @Prospects365

Featured image courtesy of photographer Joseph Guzy and the Miami Marlins

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