When power-pitching star Alex Meyer, who is one of the talent-rich Washington Nationals’ top farm prospects, returned to Kentucky to face the Class A Lexington Legends in a minor league action last month, he found time to visit his alma mater, University of Kentucky.
And Meyer, UK’s second-highest MLB draft pick in school history, got to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the UK-Alabama double-header at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
“I wasn’t able to watch one of the (Wildcat) games, but I was able to throw out a first pitch on ‘Senior Day’ which was neat because that would have been my senior day,” wrote Meyer in a recent e-mail. “Seeing my former teammates and friends was a special moment especially seeing what they’re doing this year on the field (as one of the top teams in the country).”
A first-round pick by the Nationals in the 2011 draft (No. 23 overall), Meyer recently pitched his first game as a pro for the Class A Hagerstown Suns (Maryland) in April . He had missed the 2011 minor league season because he inked a contract (with a reported $2 million signing bonus) late last year. But the 6-9, 220-pounder managed to participate in the fall instructional league.
“My first professional game (in April) went well,” said the Greensburg, Ind., native. “It felt great being back on the diamond and it felt even better getting my first professional victory. I wasn’t necessarily nervous but I was very excited to be throwing again.”
Before coming to the Nationals, Meyer had a very productive junior year at UK in 2011, earning second-team All-SEC honors as a starting pitcher.
During the 2011 season, Meyer made 14 starts with four complete games, posting a 7-5 record (including a win over No. 1 Vanderbilt) and a 2.94 ERA. In 101 innings, Meyer allowed only 78 hits with 110 strikeouts. He finished the regular season as the SEC leader in strikeouts, and ranked ninth in ERA, fifth in opponent average (.222) and second in innings pitched.
Meyer, who was also a 20th-round pick in the 2008 draft by the Boston Red Sox out of Greensburg High School, completed his Wildcat career with a 13-12 record and a 4.72 ERA, striking out 253 in 211.1 innings. He ranks fifth in UK history in career strikeouts, just behind fourth-place (2006 Cy Young winner and ex-Cat) Brandon Webb’s 259 strikeouts.
Before arriving at Kentucky, Meyer was selected Indiana’s Mr. Baseball in 2008. He was also rated as the No. 5 high school prospect by Baseball America.
When the right-hander was picked by the Nationals last summer, he was very pleased.
“I am extremely excited to be selected by the Washington Nationals,” Meyer said during a teleconference last June. “I don’t think it could have happened to a better organization. Obviously you can see them on the rise with the prospects they have been selecting over the last few years with Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, and they selected (Rice third baseman) Anthony Rendon with their first pick (No. 6 overall in 2011). It is pretty special to be selected by a club like that and I couldn’t be happier.”
According to Baseball America’s Top 10 Prospects (for each team) after the 2011 season, Meyer was ranked as Washington’s No. 6 overall prospect. By the way, Harper — an aggressive talented youngster who is now starting as an outfielder for the Nationals — was No. 1 on that list.
Asked what the Nationals want him to work on now, Meyer said:
“Just getting better on a daily basis,” he commented. “I’m around a group of people who care about winning, but not only that, they want to win now and they have (Nationals) invested the required resources to turn an organization around. It feels great to be a part of it.
“I’m just wanting to become a better pitcher in every aspect that I can and I’m around a group of personnel who can absolutely help me with that on a daily basis.”
Currently, Meyer is doing very well for the Hagerstown club. Going into this week’s action, he has started 12 games, striking out 63 batters in 59.1 innings with an ERA of 3.64 and a 5-3 mark. His 63 strikeouts are among the best in South Atlantic League, ranking No. 10 on the list.
And it wouldn’t be surprising to see the former Cat playing in the nation’s capital in the near future.
Just like Meyer’s famous UK friend, John Wall, who now plays basketball in Washington.