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Ace vs. Ace: Addison Reed (San Diego State) vs. Alex Meyer (Kentucky)

March 8, 2010

This was a meeting of Friday night starters at different stages of their pitching lives. In San Diego State’s Addison Reed, you have a junior who is learning to stretch himself out from closing to starting and showing he knows how to pitch in the process. In Kentucky’s Alex Meyer, you have a young right-hander with a big arm who is chucking and ducking at this stage of his.

Reed was an All-American closer for San Diego State in 2009 and moved into the Friday night starter’s role in 2010. Reed frequently hit 94 in closing looks in 2009, using his fastball and a hard slider as his weapons. I liked Reed’s downhill plane and landing points. For me, he was the kind whose extension made him look like he was standing on a ladder and throwing straight down.

As a starter, Reed hasn’t adapted to transferring the power from closing to starting, but you wouldn’t expect him to be able to carry over closing velocity to starting velocity in a matter of months and at a young age. When John Smoltz does it, it’s one comparison scale. When a college kid does it, it’s another.

Reed hit 92 several times in the first inning and settled into pitching at 90-92 for the first three innings before settling into 86-89 in the middle innings. I graded Reed’s fastball command at 4/6, which is better than many college pitchers. The other aspect about Reed that I really liked is the ability to pitch with his fastball despite the circumstances. Reed used his fastball command aggressively, staying low in the zone, and working both corners. He showed the confidence to pitch with his fastball and not be afraid of metal bats or college umpires. In scouting, this is something you don’t grade for, but it’s a nuance that is a major league advantage in every sense. If I had a dollar for every college pitcher I see who fears pitching with his fastball (and I’m thinking of some pretty big names here), I’d be doing well.

Reed’s slider was 78-80 in the early innings, with good tilt and deception but not the same power he had as a closer. Reed’s ability to pitch with his fastball made his slider much better. He got two strikeouts with the pitch in the first inning and an awful-sounding ground ball off the end of some guy’s metal stick. This tells us his secondary pitch still has movement and life, if not the same power as in one-inning max-effort looks.

Reed also likes to fiddle with a change-up, which has action that looks like a hybrid change-split. He rolls it off his fingers at 75-80 and sometimes varies his arm angle on the pitch. You wouldn’t expect a guy who is starting for the first time to have the change-up down, but Reed showed no hesitation to incorporate it into his game. It’s going to be a work in progress but should project to an average major league pitch, which is sufficient for a third weapon at that level.

In conclusion, Reed showed you just about everything you wanted to see, except pure power, which should improve in the future. At 6-3, 200, with broad shoulders, and strong hips and thighs, he should have more power once he acquires some conditioning and durability.  If the draft were in March, Reed might be hurt by a lack of power. His key will be to show steady projection in the coming months, and signs that his strength, stamina, durability and power are all maturing.

Meyer is on the opposite spectrum. A sophomore moved up to the Friday night starter’s spot, his power is superior when compared to Reed.  Meyer hit 96 in the first inning with his fastball and 84-86 with a hard curveball. However, despite better power, Meyer was more hittable and much more vulnerable. Here’s why.

Meyer, at 6-7, is a thrower. His fastball velocity at 94-96 on the high end gets a high grade, but his fastball command is well below average. This takes away from his fastball movement, which will grade up to average in the future. His curveball is going to be his best pitch and he commands it better than he commands his fastball. The rotation of that pitch will grade out to above-average. He seldom uses his straight change, at 79, and used a two-seam fastball at 90-92 for a change-up. He’s a classic raw power arm with no pitch ability at this stage of his career. Meyer throws too many pitches, gives too much credit to hitters he should be lording over and stays too straight in his windup, which will place too much stress on his elbow.

Meyer is a 2011 prospect who has a chance to be a first rounder, so you don’t write the guy off. But you can say that he has 2/5 fastball command and that he lacks the feel and control Reed has. Meyer’s prime breaking ball is also harder than Reed’s, but he’s got to be able to more consistently throw strikes in order to bring that hook into the game.

Meyer tends to have his front side frequently fly open and he struggles to keep his mechanics. His arm noticeably slows down on the change-up. He trusts his curveball more than his fastball. His fastball naturally rises. Right now, he has the big arm to profile as a major league starter, but will be far away until he masters consistency and confidence that he can throw his fastball for a strike, to any part of the plate, at any time in the count.


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