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Alex Meyer embodies exactly what the Angels need

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Acquiring high-upside talent is a necessity should the team “intend to contend” moving forward.

Washington Nationals v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
This was a strikeout, probably.
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Alex Meyer took a curveball to one of the league’s best offenses yesterday, striking out seven and walking just one in the best start of his career to-date. To put some perspective on this, here’s Meyer’s game scores from Fangraphs sorted from highest to lowest (50 is average, it’s on a 0-100 scale).

See that 86? That’s from yesterday. The start in which he silenced a lineup consisting of multiple players that will garner MVP votes, including Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, and Daniel Murphy.

It’s difficult to explain how up and down Meyer has been, but that story also exists in the aforementioned game score tables. How his knuckle curve and lanky frame have increased his deception, his 10+ K/9, an insanely high walk rate (5.61 BB/9), at times frustratingly high pitch counts, and a downward spiral tends to accelerate his demise after poor command takes a hold. All of these things are true: conflicting, confounding, but all true.

And yet, the Angels need more Alex Meyers.

No, I’m not referring to cloning to create a team of 6’9” point forwards that dominate Greensburg, Indiana gym floors. Rather, I’m referring to the notion of accumulating high-upside talent in efforts to move the proverbial needle to contend with Trout on the roster.

See, despite Meyer’s many flaws, even if he does not reach his full potential his physical gifts afford him to make mistakes, learn, and grow (in knowledge, not height). The whole idea is that Meyer has so much room for error that even if he’s not 100 percent, heck, even 70 percent, he’s still playable. And as a rookie, albeit a 27 year old rookie, Meyer is only beginning to tap into the potential he possesses.

Among Angels starters with 6 starts or more (chosen to include Parker Bridwell), Meyer has the second lowest ERA at 3.74 and the lowest FIP at 4.11. Case in point: he has the highest fWAR (0.9) among Angels starters, yet simultaneously rocking the highest walk rate among any MLB starting pitcher (min. 60 IP). He’s also inducing tons of weak contact, as evidenced by his low .255 BABIP and weakly hit ground balls. With a minimum of 60 innings, Meyer is tied for 2nd-least hits given up.

So...imagine if he can make incremental strides in his command?

There’s no doubt that Alex Meyer is high risk. His inability to find the strike zone is still concerning and he’s an oft-injured 27-year old rookie. There aren’t many viable starting pitchers with that profile. But Meyer is doing it, and he’s only getting started.

Of course, there’s more to building a team than stockpiling high risk, high reward prospects close to the majors. Such ambition requires 1) being able to acquire such players given the cost, and 2) setting a foundation such that these players can thrive in their new environments, including appropriate personnel that have the technical knowledge to unlock the innate potentials.

Given how many positions the Angels need improvement in — second base, first base, starting pitchers, most notably — they would be wise to take calculated risks and move the needle, as they won’t receive conventional top prospects due to the dearth of quality trade chips on the roster.