Kim Ng starts by stating the obvious when talking about right-handed pitcher Max Meyer.
“Max is a great talent,” the Miami Marlins’ general manager said Monday of the club’s third-ranked prospect and the No. 33 overall prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline. “We think he’s got a very bright future ahead of him.”
She then follows up with facts that point to the organization’s long-term view of their 2020 first-round draft pick and the reasoning the Marlins want him to spend more time in the minor leagues.
He has thrown just 147 1/3 innings as a professional baseball player since making his minor-league debut last season. He has made just nine total starts in Triple A Jacksonville and has pitched longer than six innings in just one of those outings.
There are still, Ng said, areas for him to improve.
“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,” Ng said. “That’s the goal that we have in mind for Max right now.”
So Meyer remains in Jacksonville as the Marlins sort out some kinks in their rotation after Jesus Luzardo was placed on the 15-day injured list with a left forearm strain. Cody Poteet is making a spot start in Luzardo’s place on Tuesday against the Washington Nationals, with left-handed pitcher Daniel Castano recalled to serve as Miami’s long reliever out of the bullpen.
Ng said the organization will figure out its plans after that.
The team has three off days over the next week and a half — Thursday, Monday and May 26 — which opens up the possibility of Tuesday being the only start the Marlins need from Luzardo’s spot in the rotation if Luzardo is able to return after spending the minimal amount of time on the IL.
That’s far from a guarantee, though.
“I would want to be flexible on it,” Ng said. “I don’t want to get tied into anything, but that’s what the flexibility allows us to do.”
That’s not a knock on Meyer or his production in the minors, although he is coming off his worst outing in pro ball on Thursday — six earned runs on seven hits (including three home runs) and a walk over five innings with four strikeouts. Meyer has a 2.97 ERA over 36 1/3 innings this season and a 2.44 ERA throughout his 29 career minor-league starts, all at either Double A or Triple A.
But success in the minors doesn’t always result in immediate big-league success.
With that, the organization’s goal is two-fold with prospects like Meyer.
First: Minimize the acclimation period when the player gets to the big leagues. Give him time to learn from his mistakes while still in the minors. Meyer is still primarily a fastball-slider pitcher who is developing a changeup. Having a third quality pitch is key if he plans to stay as a starter when he makes it to MLB.
Second: Make sure that when he’s called up, he’s in a position to stay up. The club doesn’t want Meyer to be bouncing back and forth between MLB and the minor leagues. Promoting him to temporarily fill in for an injured starter (which would be the current case) and then having to potentially send him back down when the rotation is at full strength would be counterintuitive in their eyes.
It’s also worth noting the Marlins’ 3.49 starting pitcher ERA entering Monday ranked ninth in MLB — and that’s including the 6.15 ERA from Elieser Hernandez, who the organization believes is pitching better than his results have shown and aren’t at the point of replacing him in the rotation just yet.
“This game is hard,” Ng said. “The competition is very stiff, and it’s somewhat infrequent that you see young players come up and just hit the ground running consistently.”
Meyer will have his moment. Just not yet.
“Again,” Ng said, “we want to make sure that Max and all of our prospects when they come up are as well equipped as they can be provided that we have that opportunity.”