Top-ranked pitching prospect Meyer ready for his chance

Twins prospect Alex Meyer went 4-3 with a 3.21 ERA in 13 starts at Double-A New Britain last season, but he also dealt with a late-season shoulder injury. He hopes to see time in the major leagues in 2014.

Mark J. Rebilas/Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — Miguel Sano might be the first of the Twins’ current crop of prospects to debut in the majors, but he hopes to take another with him.

"Alex Meyer, my brother," Sano said, referencing Minnesota’s top pitching prospect. "I told him, he said, ‘When you go to the big leagues, I’ve got to go too, man.’"

Many of the same fans that have been clamoring to see Sano and fellow uber-prospect Byron Buxton in the majors have expressed similar excitement for Meyer. No matter which list you look at, Meyer is Minnesota’s top-ranked pitching prospect. Keith Law of ESPN.com ranked Meyer as the No. 62 overall prospect in his recent rankings. MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo has Meyer much higher — No. 28 among baseball prospects. Baseball America has Meyer as the Twins’ third overall prospect and their top minor league pitcher.

For a team that has struggled as badly on the mound as the Twins have in recent years, Meyer’s skill set is almost equally as desirable as what Buxton and Sano bring to the table. Yet while Sano has aspirations of making his major league debut in 2014 — even stating he wants to be on the Opening Day roster — Meyer insists he’s heading into spring with no set expectations. He just wants to make general manager Terry Ryan’s decision a difficult one.

"I told him, ‘I’m going to try and do everything I can to make it tough for you,’ and he said, ‘Do it,’" Meyer said. "That’s what he wants. We’ll see where that takes us. I’m excited to get going."

Meyer, acquired from Washington last winter in exchange for outfielder Denard Span, will be participating in his first major league camp in just his second season in the Twins’ organization. His 2013 season was a bit of a roller coaster ride. While he went 4-3 with a 3.21 ERA in 13 starts at Double-A New Britain, he also battled a shoulder injury that sidelined him for the better part of the second half of the year.

Yet Meyer bounced back and proved he was healthy by pitching in the Arizona Fall League, facing some of the top talent in the minors. In seven starts for the Glendale Desert Dogs, Meyer was 2-1 with a 3.12 ERA as batters hit just .212 against him.

"I just realized that game in, game out, those lineups, every guy you’ve heard of before. It was tough," Meyer said. "It was a learning experience for me because I was trying to learn how to pitch a lot more than just go out and throw it by guys. It was good. I was really thankful that I had the opportunity to go out there."

Now that he’s healthy again, Meyer believes he can make a statement this spring as he battles for the fifth and final spot in Minnesota’s starting rotation. Whether or not he breaks camp with the Twins remains to be seen, but his goal of reaching the major leagues continues to inch closer.

Once Meyer finally does make it to the bigs, he can probably quit his second job. For the past few offseasons, Meyer has worked as a substitute teacher in his hometown of Greensburg, Ind. It doesn’t pay much, but Meyer was interested in teaching partly because his mother works at the school.

Because of his stint this winter in the AFL, Meyer didn’t spend much time in the classroom this offseason — only five or six days, he estimated. While the high schoolers in his classes didn’t seem very interested in his life as a baseball player, the elementary school kids did.

"They ask quite a bit," Meyer said. "They make it fun."

School is still in session in Greensburg, but Meyer is ready to ditch the classroom and pursue his goal as a pitcher. He and the rest of the pitchers report to Fort Myers on Feb. 16, and Meyer plans to leave the books behind.

"I’m ready for baseball," Meyer said. "I’m not trying to be remembered as a teacher. I want to be a baseball player. I’m ready to get going."

Meyer and fellow pitching prospect Trevor May figure to be in the Twins’ long-term plans, along with Buxton and Sano, who should be cornerstones of Minnesota’s offense for years to come. It’s unlikely that all four will be teammates in the majors this year, so Opening Day 2015 seems to be the date most fans have circled on their calendars.

There’s always the chance that Meyer could head north sooner than that. If he does, he wouldn’t mind sharing a plane ride to Minneapolis with his friend Sano.

"Last year, we talked about, ‘Next year, me and you are going to get called up together,’" Meyer said. "I think it would be a pretty neat deal to be able to go up with somebody like that, somebody as highly regarded as Miguel is. . . . I think the Twins are going to have a good year this year. It’s going to be exciting. I think things are going to go a lot better than what a lot of people think."

Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter