The 2020 Major League Baseball Draft will take place on Wednesday and Thursday live on ESPN and MLB network. it will be a much different draft this year as only five rounds instead of the usual 40 will be selected due to the issues surrounding the Covid-19 Pandemic. No matter the format change, one Minnesota Golden Gophers player will hear his name called early in the first round on Wednesday night. Minnesota junior right handed pitcher Max Meyer is projected to be a top-15 pick in the MLB draft and if he is, he will become the highest drafted Gopher pitcher in program history.
Minnesota has had eight previous first round draft picks in the MLB Draft in program history. —the most of any team in the Big Ten. You easily recognize some of the names...Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor, Glen Perkins. And then there are a few who either never made it to the major leagues or only had a cup of coffee in the show—Noel Jenke, Jeff Schmidt, Mike Kvasnicka. Throw in a few who had decent MLB careers and then had their sons come in and make themselves known at the U in Dan Wilson and Brent Gates. Max Meyer will be added to this list on Wednesday...its only a matter of how high he rises it.
Paul Molitor holds the distinction of the highest selected Gopher going third overall to Milwaukee in 1977. Winfield was the 4th overall pick by the San Diego Padres in 1973. Dan Wilson went 7th overall to the Cincinnati Reds in 1990. If Meyer goes in the top-ten he will join this Mount Rushmore of Gopher baseball athletes. Meyer most likely will become the highest Gopher pitcher ever selected. Glen Perkins went #22 overall the the Minnesota Twins in 2004. Nearly every single mock draft that has come out has Meyer easily going before pick #22 if not in the top-10. And yes we know Winfield did pitch on occasion for the Gophers, just like Meyer also has done some hitting—but Winfield was not drafted #4 overall for his pitching no matter how impressive it was at times.
Meyer is one of those classic players who’s talent exploded in college. Coming into his freshman season at the U out of Woodbury High School Mayer was ranked the 128th best right handed pitcher in the country. Minnesota was his only true DI offer. He was selected in the 34th Round of the MLB Draft by the home town Twins in 2017, but everyone including the Twins knew there was no chance of him signing a pro contract—it was more an honor of respect for one of the best high school players in the state. Meyer’s fastball at the time topped out about 88 mph and while his slider was then as it is now his best pitch, it still needed some refinement.
Gopher head coach John Anderson decided Meyer would best suit the Gophers as their closer in his freshman season in 2018 and Meyer did not disappoint. He ended the year with a 2-3 record and a 2.06 ERA...and tied the Minnesota season season record for saves with 18. In 43 and two third innings pitched Meyer struck out 54 batters, allowed just 25 hits and had opposing batters hit just .163 off of him. It was good enough to earn Third Team All-American Honors and Freshman All-American Honors and a spot with the US Collegiate National Team in the summer of 2018.
Meyer had big shoes to fill in his sophomore season as he moved into the rotation and became the Gophers ace. Meyer would go 5-3 with a 2.11 ERA and strike out 87 batters in 76.2 innings pitched. His arsenal improved as his fastball increased to 93-95 mph and his slider was refined into what people were already saying was the best collegiate slider in the country. He went back to the US Collegiate National Team in the summer of 2019 where he worked on developing a third go to pitch in a change up.
Meyer came out ready to go as the Gophers bonafide ace in 2020...but we all know what happened. In limited action Meyer did impress going 3-1 in four starts with a 1.95 ERA. Meyer struck out 46 batters in just 27.2 innings of work and set his career high in strikeouts in back to back starts this spring. Meyer was dominant on the mound hitting 100 with his fastball at times and throwing arguably the two best back to back starts in Gopher history striking out 14 batters and allowing just five hits and one run in a complete game win over North Carolina at US Bank Stadium. He came out the following weekend and topped that against Utah in eight shut out innings with 15 strikeouts. Meyer’s 2.07 career ERA ranks #4 all time for the Gophers and he is the only Gopher player on the top-10 list of ERA in the last 40 years.
Meyer’s value as a MLB draft pick will be related to that slider. MLB.com recently ranked Meyer’s slider the best in the 2020 draft class. There are some lingering questions whether he has the body type to become a high starter at the major league level or if he will end up being a high leverage relever for a team which may bump him out of the top ten of the draft. However the most recent mock drafts have him moving UP draft boards rather than down due to his potential to possibly play at the major league level in 2020.
Where do the most recent MLB Mock Drafts have Max Meyer going?
Rotoballer.com—Toronto Blue Jays #5 overall
Baseball America—Seattle Mariners #6 overall
Lookout Landing—San Diego Padres #8 overall
Sporting News—San Diego Padres #8 overall
Bleacher Report—San Diego Padres #8 overall
We will find out Wednesday night where Max Meyer will end up, but it definitely appears you better tune in early if you want to hear his name called. Coverage begins at 6PM central on both ESPN and MLB Network.