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Angels rookie Alex Meyer: Starter or reliever?

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What’s the best way to deploy Alex Meyer?

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Los Angeles Angels Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Drafted by the Washington Nationals 23rd overall in 2011 from the University of Kentucky, Los Angeles Angels rookie Alex Meyer has been considered an intriguing if erratic pitching prospect since then. At 6'9”, as we often see with exceptionally-tall pitchers, he has had some mechanical difficulties in the pro ranks that bring into question what his eventual role will be.

He made his professional debut in 2012 with the Class-A Hagerstown Suns in the South Atlantic League. Traded to the Minnesota Twins for Denard Span in the winter of 2012, he had injuries and command issues for two seasons but did make his debut for the Twins in ‘15. He was traded to the Angels in the August 2016 Ricky Nolasco deal. He’s spent most of ‘17 in the Angels rotation.

In 2017, Meyer started the season with his typical mid to upper 90's fastball, though he has shown a slow decline in his velocity each month of this season. On average, Meyer has lost 1 mph off of his fastball since April. Add to this concern the fact that Meyer throws his curveball virtually as often as his fastball, and one can see how pitch selection could potentially wear down an arm over the course of such a long season.

Meyer now throws his low to mid 80's curveball as often as 40% of the time, while he goes to the heat in just over 39% of his pitches. His transition to more frequent breaking pitches has also been a gradual move, as each month we have seen his curve slowly become the featured pitch in his arsenal.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

It would be easy to understand how his loss in velocity has caused him to lean on his secondary pitches more often, or it could simply be that he's pacing himself as a starter at the MLB level, trying to keep something in reserve to go as deep into the game as he can.

In 67 1/3 innings over 13 starts in 2017, Meyer has allowed a miserly 48 hits while striking out 75 batters. However, he has also walked an astounding 42 batters, an average of 5.61 per nine innings. It's a troubling trend, especially if the Angels intend on leaving him in the rotation permanently.

His plus fastball and curve would play up if he were to be moved to the bullpen, which could be where his future lies. But then there are flashes of brilliance, such as when Meyer held the Nationals to one hit over seven shutout innings on July 19, walking only one and striking out seven. He has allowed two runs or less in seven of his 13 starts, this season.

Allowing hits isn't his problem, though; such frequent wildness makes him essentially a five-inning pitcher, and thus a drain on the relief corps. It also makes him a variable, results-wise; without consistent command, he could put up a strong start or get the hook in the 4th inning.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at New York Mets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Assuming that Meyer can work out his control issues, which have been ongoing since his professional debut, and that he can stretch himself out enough to be more than a 5-inning guy, his floor would be as a strong #3 starter. He will need to considerably refine his change-up, if he is to remain in the rotation.

The potential is there for him to be the best starter on the Angels' staff for the foreseeable future, but there is work to be done before that becomes realistic. He could easily be an All-Star-caliber reliever, if it turns out the rotation isn't for him.