Prospect Smackdown: Marcus Stroman vs. Alex Meyer
In last week’s Prospect Smackdown, we saw our closest battle yet as Albert Almora eked out a 54-46% victory over David Dahl in the battle of 2012 center field draftees. This week, we’re returning to the rubber to compare two pitchers with extraordinarily dissimilar physical profiles and extraordinarily similar projections in Marcus Stroman and Alex Meyer. I got the idea for this entry after the two went back-to-back in the BP Expert Mock MiLB Draft we’re holding right now, and I just missed out on selecting one of these two studs myself.
Without further ado, let’s cover the basics and let the people decide which starter/closer candidate they prefer.
Prospect Smackdown No. 5 – Who’s the better prospect: Marcus Stroman vs. Alex Meyer
The case for Stroman
Simply put, Stroman shoves. He has an effective fastball that sits in the low-to-mid-90s, a wipeout slider that’s among the better sliders in the minors and a changeup that lags behind his other two offerings right now, but flashes plus. Stroman posted a 3.20 ERA with a 10.40 K/9 and 2.18 BB/9 in 111.2 innings in Double-A last season, showcasing both his ability to miss bats and his above average command. Renowned as a competitor and coming from a major college program, Stroman has all the intangibles needed to become a No. 2 fantasy starter.
The Blue Jays have a fairly shallow rotation heading into 2014, and while Stroman is likely to begin the season in Triple-A the odds are pretty good that he’ll see the majors in some capacity this season. Viewed as a fast-moving closer when selected in the first round of the 2012 draft, Stroman has won over many scouts and analysts who now give the short right-hander a chance at starting in the majors. In that role, his ceiling is as a mid-rotation starter with some prime years coming as a No. 2. If he’s a reliever, he has the stuff to be closing games immediately. Essentially, Stroman is a nice mix of high ceiling and high floor.
The case against Stroman
As we saw in the Carlos Martinez vs. Yordano Ventura debate, it’s often difficult for short pitchers to start because they can have difficulty generating downward plane. While short pitchers like Sonny Gray and Danny Salazar have led to a bit of a counter-culture movement in terms of supporting short pitchers, none are shorter than Stroman, who is generously listed at 5’9″ and was used as a reliever in college at Duke. More and more analysts seem to be coming around on Stroman and projecting him as a starter in the majors, but that’s not a sure thing, despite his successful run in AA last season. Stroman also missed time in 2013 due to a suspension for testing positive for Methylhexaneamine, which doesn’t impact his long term projection but does hurt in that it cost him some development time last season.
The case for Meyer
Considered a high-risk, high-upside arm when selected by the Nationals in the 2011 draft, Meyer has moved at somewhat of a conservative pace for a college pitcher but now looks poised to bring his massive frame and swing-and-miss stuff to the majors. Whereas Stroman is one of the shortest players in the game, Meyer is one of the largest, standing at 6’9″ and listed at a conservative 220 lbs. In 70.3 innings at Double-A last season, Meyer used his size, one of the minor’s best fastballs and a very good slider to post a K/9 of 10.80 and a BB/9 of 3.73, posting a 3.21 ERA that was nearly identical to Stroman’s mark.
While the Twins have gone to great lengths to fill out their rotation this winter, they still sorely lack upside, which Meyer has in spades. While many project him to be a reliever in the long run, odds are Meyer at least gets a chance to start in the majors, and I think that chance will come this year. While the WHIP will be of some concern, the strikeout potential is crazy and Target Field will work to suppress Meyer’s already stingy home run rates. I get the risk will tall pitchers, but I don’t fully understand ranking Meyer behind some more traditional arms who are still two-plus years away. And like Stroman, if Meyer is forced to move to the bullpen his upside is as one of the five best closers in fantasy.
The case against Meyer
This is perhaps my favorite juxtaposition in the Prospect Smackdown series so far, as it shows just how complex the scouting process can be. Whereas Stroman will face difficulties starting because he is too small to generate plane, Meyer will face difficulties because he’s too large to consistently harness his delivery. It’s a problem that plagues plenty of tall pitchers, and many end up moving to the bullpen in order to maintain consistency for shorter periods of time and let their stuff play up – think Andrew Miller. Meyer also missed time in 2013 with shoulder fatigue, and as we all know, shoulder injuries are infinitely more scary than their elbow counterparts.