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Mets prospect Casey Meisner: Future major league ace?

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Casey Meisner has gotten off to a quick start to the 2015 season, owning a 2.15 ERA in Low-A. Just how good can this rising prospect be at the major league level?

Casey Meisner pitching in Low-A, where he has dominated.
Casey Meisner pitching in Low-A, where he has dominated.
MilB.com

Hi Minor League Ball!

I am Quinn Barry, one of the new writers John recruited to the site. Previously, I have written as a prospect analyst for Fansided’s Grading on the Curve and the independent site Metsmerized Online. I cannot fully express how honored I am for the opportunity to contribute to a site I have idolized ever since I began blogging about prospects. I am equally excited to share my thoughts with some of the most intelligent readers on the web.

Anyway, without further adieu, I would like to get to the task at hand. Casey Meisner, ranked by John as the Mets 20th best organizational prospect prior to the season, has endured a meteoric rise after a superb start in Low-A Savannah. I’m here to discuss the future of Meisner, what he needs to work on, how good he could potentially be, and how long we will have to wait to see the next "big arm" Mets prospect in Queens.

Background

Drafted by the Mets out of high school in the third round of the 2013 amateur Rule IV draft, scouts praised Meisner’s power arm and projectable 6-7 180 pound frame. Just 18 years old, the Mets knew the Texan had plenty of time to fix his mechanics as well as add some strength to his body and velocity to a fastball that already sat in the low-90s. After two and a half years, the 20-year-old’s delivery is still not perfect, but thus far, New York has to be ecstatic about the early returns on their high-risk/high-reward investment.

Delivery

Meisner aforementioned delivery problems are his biggest red flag, but the righty has reduced those concerns with a more polished pitching motion. Meisner begins his windup standing tall, then calmly unveils a high leg kicks which maximizes his size. He does reveal a head-jerk immediately after releasing the pitch in order to generate more power, but that jerk has gotten less and less pronounced since Casey’s high school days. Most importantly, Casey should be able to eliminate the jerk entirely by simply increasing his stride length. Using his lower body more than his head as a source of power may also grant the 2013 draftee more control of his pitches and prevent injury. It looks like Meisner has already began this process; his fastball velocity now frequents 93-94 and touches 95, as opposed to the 90-92 he pitched at in high school, His control has also improved, as the Mets prospect owns a career-best 2.28 BB/9.

Secondary Pitches

Meisner’s improvement of his delivery is not the only key to his success. Like most young pitchers, his secondary offerings will determine if he can become an effective major league starter. In addition to his plus fastball, the 20-year-old holds a curveball and change-up in his arsenal. Meisner’s curve is good enough to get outs at the lower levels of the minors, however, this pitch has a long way to go to reach major league average. His hook lacks the tight motion scouts like to see, moving in a slurvish manner. Meisner’s 3/4 arm slot is likely responsible for his curveball’s inconsistency, so it is unreasonable to expect the pitch ever to be above-average at the major league level.

The righty’s change also needs work, but it has the potential to be a solid pitch at maturity. In the videos I watched, the youngster had trouble controlling the offering, often leaving it up in the zone or missing the catcher’s glove. Nevertheless, Meisner does have a solid feel for the pitch, knowing when to throw the change-up and how to get batters off-balance. Sometimes, his change can look fantastic, diving down-and-away to left-handed batters and down-and-in to righties. It also can look flat, but with more refinement, this pitch could be the put-away choice for Meisner when he is ahead in the count.

Projection

Ultimately, I see Meisner panning out as a No. 3 or No. 4 starter on a first-division team, with the potential to outplay that projection. His fastball will be a plus offering, and his change-up may get there, but his curve will hold him back from consistent greatness. Casey will flash the occasional great start and the occasional dud. Overall, though, he should be a pitcher you can count on to provide quality innings.

The best thing Meisner has going for him is his chance for more improvement. Although he has been excellent this year in Savannah, posting a sparkling 2.15 ERA, Meisner's delivery is far from perfect. Should he clean up his motion, his secondary offerings will improve, and his projection could shift from mid-tier starter to frontline arm. At worst, Meisner ends up as a middle-inning bullpen arm with plus stuff, ala Chris Martin of the Yankees.

St. Lucie (A+) and Binghamton (AA) will be a great test of Meisner’s progress in the coming years. The towering hurler is just 20 years old, so it is safe to say he will not reach the big leagues before 2017. Still, look for Meisner to headline the Mets top pitching prospects this coming offseason. He’s earned it.