Updated: May 2, 2019
THIS IS A COUNTDOWN!!!!! Over the next forty-something days starting on February 12th and ending on March 28th, I will be rolling out my Top 35 prospects in the Cardinals organization. We call it "The Dirty Thirty-Five" because it's marketable, I think. Also, we call it that because my write-ups and evaluations are a little different. I’m kind of quirky and goofy guy and the evaluations fit that personality. I've already written about the four players that graduated off the list. I've also written about the guys that just missed the list. You should check those out because you're going to have questions about my sanity afterwards. The article about the guys that didn’t make the D35 is really freaking good. This list is my own. It's terrible. I'm fine with it. Remember, have fun with these lists. Ranking prospects is a joke, but it's fun so treat all of the prospect ranking accordingly.
Casey Meisner - Right-Handed Pitcher
Acquired from the A's for Josh Lucas
STATS AS OF 5-1-2019
Once upon a time (2013), the New York Mets selected a tall right-handed pitcher named Casey Meisner in the third round of the draft. That pitcher was smooth and projectable, and the Metropolitans believed that he'd have a chance to be a very good pitcher if they could just get his mechanics in order and his body a little bulkier.
About two years later (in 2015), the Mets' traded this tall righty with repeatability, control/command, and striking-batters-out issues to the Oakland Athletics for Tyler Clippard.
Then, for the next two years, this right-hander struggled in the A's system. Drafted out of high school and five seasons into his minor league career, Meisner was finally making his Double-A debut. Even more problematic, this assignment was more about the A's pushing him to see what he was capable of than it was about anything else. As you'll notice from the stats above, Meisner was "fine" in that debut, but he obviously didn't do anything to stand out.
So, in the late stages of 2018's Spring Training, as the A's were trying to improve the major league depth of their club, they traded Meisner to the Cardinals for RHRP Josh Lucas.
It took Meisner a couple of weeks of refining and adjusting his mechanics at the Cardinals' "Home Box Office" in Jupiter/Palm Beach before he finally made his organizational debut on April 25th. At first, it was slow-going for Meisner. His stats appeared to match what he was doing in the A's organization, but at a level lower than where he ended the 2017 season.
During his first eight starts as a member of the Cardinals' organization, Meisner struck out 30 batters and walked 18 batters in 42.1 innings while posting an ERA of 4.04 in a pitchers league. Those were average (but sad) times for Meisner and the Cardinals, for sure.
It wasn't impressive, but there were some interesting things going on. First, Meisner's mechanics were cleaning up. Pardon the pun, but that's a tall task for someone of Meisner's size. It usually takes pitchers of that size (listed at 6'7") extra time to harness their bodies, if they are even capable of doing it in the first place. The other thing that really caught my eye was that he was holding hitters to a batting average against of .217. At this point, he was in his fourth turn at the A+ level and, again, this was a pitcher's league. So the batting average against was to be taken with a grain of salt. However, it was still an encouraging development, especially coupled with a slugging percentage against of .366. Not amazing, but solid. At this point, I'm taking a brief "GIF-termission" because we've gone too long without any media. Behold, his two-seamer:
It was about this time that I noticed that I was having trouble picking up what was going to be coming out of Meisner's hand. That's a clever way of saying that his mechanics got about as repeatable and as good as I think he's capable of getting them. This is when it started to really show on the stat sheet. Over his final 14 appearances (13 starts), Meisner posted an ERA of 3.40 while striking out 63 in 79.1 innings. He did this while evenly splitting those appearances between A+ and AA. He kept his slugging percentage against at a similar .367 while throwing strikes 64% of the time. He also did this while looking REALLY GOOD at Springfield.
What has impressed me the most about Meisner's arsenal is how well he's learned to command it. He still walks too many hitters once he gets behind in counts, but his sinker/curve/slider/change combo is all around average, with his slider and sinker showing signs of being more consistently. His curve and change can be "more" sometimes, but just not as consistently in regards to both life and command. I definitely LOVE this breaking pitch:
He is capable of throwing all four pitches for strikes with a low 90's sinker and a downward plane and that'll work just fine. That he was capable of making such quick improvements to his mechanics is why I have him ranked so high. He is more than worth the gamble, even if he ends up in the bullpen (or even stalls out) in 2019. I love how he finishes his delivery, and that was one of the important changes that has helped his delivery develop. I say that I love it, but I do worry about how high-effort his delivery appears to be. Especially on the follow-through. There isn't much in the way of wasted motion, but it just seems a little too high-effort.
There are some critical areas for him to work on. First, He is slow to the plate. I don't have his time to the plate unfortunately, but you don't have to watch more than one game's worth of him pitching from the stretch to pick up on it. This isn't uncommon for pitchers of his height, but it's still something that he'll need to improve.
Earlier, I mentioned that he appears to have straightened out some of the kinks that plagued his delivery, and that I thought that he might be maxed out in that department. With that said, any continued improvement with delivery-consistencies is going to be paramount to his continued success. Because of his size, he's going to struggle with it/always be fighting it, more than likely. Especially with the history that he's had with those mechanics. Working on the mastery of his motion will eventually make or break him. Throwing strikes to get back into counts is going to be important for him, too. Although, I do believe that he'll get more consistent if and when those mechanics become more "second nature" than they do "practiced."
THE BOTTOM LINE
I'm higher on Mr. Meisner than most, and I'm anxious to see if he proves my optimism fruitful during the 2019 season. At the very least, I see him as the type of pitcher that has a major league debut out of the bullpen in his future. Maybe not in 2019, but by the end of the 2020 season, depending on circumstances. Because of the effort in his delivery, that might be the best spot for him. He's a prospect in the same vein as Matt Pearce was prior to the HGH suspension in 2018, but with a substantially higher ceiling and the ability to do more with his arsenal. He should start the year at Springfield with a mid-season promotion to Memphis just an injury or major league promotion from the Memphis rotation standing in front of him.
MAY 1st UPDATE
It's been tough sledding for Meisner so far this season. Like with most of the Springfield pitchers, he's struggled in part because of some questionable defensive positioning and defensive play behind him, but also because he isn't executing like he's capable of. Also, the Cardinals screwed around at the beginning of the season and they couldn't decide if he was going to start or relieve, and that decision went down to the wire. Springfield, as a whole, appears to be normalizing and I'm anxious to see if Meisner and the other pitchers follow suit.
Thanks to FanGraphs for supporting the cause and supplying the stats.
Thanks For Reading!!