MIAMI — With Jesús Luzardo landing on the 15-day injured list and Elieser Hernandez trying to settle down on the mound, Marlins fans have begun more insistently asking when right-hander Max Meyer will debut. Ahead of Monday’s series opener between the Marlins and Nationals at loanDepot park, general manager Kim Ng answered questions about MLB Pipeline’s No. 33 overall prospect.
“We think he’s got a very bright future ahead of him,” Ng said. “When you zoom out a little bit, Max has got [147 1/3] innings in professional baseball. And so when we look at this, we just want these guys when they come up to be as prepared as they can, given the circumstances, to get big league hitters out. And that’s the goal that we have in mind for Max right now.”
The 23-year-old had been dominant through six starts at Triple-A Jacksonville this season (1.72 ERA) until a hiccup (5 IP/6 ER) last Thursday. By design, Meyer’s pitch count and innings are being monitored. He has completed six innings just once this season, and seven times so far in his career. The most he has thrown is 92 pitches in an outing. According to MLB Pipeline, Meyer’s slider is as strong as advertised. It is his best offering, followed by a mid-90s fastball. He is throwing his changeup more, which is a positive development for his arsenal. The scouting report goes on to say that he needs to continue refining his command.
Ever since the Marlins selected Meyer with the third overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, they have challenged him: Without a Minor League season in ’20 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he joined the alternate training site, then the fall instructional league. Before Meyer had pitched in a pro game, he had participated in big league Spring Training. He made his pro debut at Double-A Pensacola in ’21, receiving a promotion to the Jumbo Shrimp by the end of September because of a stellar 2.41 ERA for the Blue Wahoos.
But what the Marlins don’t want is for Meyer to bounce back and forth between the Majors and Minors. Around baseball, Top 100 prospects Jarred Kelenic (Mariners), Spencer Torkelson (Tigers) and Bobby Witt Jr. (Royals) are off to slow starts to what many expect will be productive careers, with Kelenic recently being optioned to Triple-A. Before tossing a no-hitter for the Angels last week, Reid Detmers had a 6.33 career ERA. In those cases, prospects were struggling for the first time at the toughest level. Results in the Minors aren’t guaranteed to immediately translate to The Show.
Look no further than Trevor Rogers, who followed up a 6.11 ERA in 2020 with a National League Rookie of the Year runner-up campaign in ’21. Right-hander Edward Cabrera (No. 32 overall prospect) impressed in his MLB debut (6 1/3 IP, 3 ER) last August, then posted a 6.30 ERA and walked 16 batters in 20 innings the rest of the way.
“I’ve been watching this for a long time whether it was with the Marlins or the Dodgers or the Yankees, and there’s always going to be some acclimation period, right?” said Ng, who has three decades’ worth of front office experience. “These guys when they come up are not necessarily who they are going to be as time wears on. There is an acclimation period, so I would say that in terms of some of the younger players that we have on the roster now, you’ll take a look at when they first came up.
“It’s hard. This game is hard. These big league pitchers, the competition is very stiff. It’s somewhat infrequent that you see young players come up and just hit the ground running consistently. So again, we want to make sure that Max and all of our prospects when they come up are about about as well-equipped as they can be provided with that opportunity.”