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Span arrives, but at a price

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Span arrives, but at a price

By Steve Roney
CSNwashington.com

Denard Span has finally arrived, stepping into a gaping hole in the middle of the outfield and at the top of the lineup – but he didn’t come cheaply.

Going back to Minnesota is righty Alex Meyer, the 6’9” flame-throwing 2011 first-round pick out of the University of Kentucky. He spent this past season, his professional debut, making 18 starts at low-A Hagerstown and seven more at high-A in Potomac.

If you knew his name before today, there’s a great chance that you learned it while going to one of those games.

There’s another good chance, however, that we’ll be hearing his name again in a couple years – and depending on the state of the Nationals pitching staff, fans in D.C. might not like what they hear.

Meyer has been highly regarded for years, enough so to garner a reported offer of $2,000,000 to sign with the Red Sox as a 20th round pick out of high school in 2008. He rolled the dice and decided to become a Wildcat, earning that exact amount three years later from the Nats – one of 18 first-round picks to sign for that amount or higher.

The money was there for two reasons: His imposing size, and what that projectable frame meant to his pitch velocity, both current and future. The knock, as often is in these cases, was that Meyer didn’t always know where the ball was going when it left his hand.

In 129 innings during his first professional season, Meyer put up fantastic conventional (10-6, 2.86 ERA, 1.1 WHIP) and peripheral (3.09 strikeouts per walk, 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings) numbers.

Meyer’s debut was an unmitigated success – and though he left off in single-A, a big, 22-year old college product who has finally harnessed his almost unlimited power potential is the sort of pitcher that climbs the minor league ladder two rungs at a time.

Should he build off the momentum of his rookie season and put up numbers like this at each stop – which would certainly be no mean feat, but still – then Alex Meyer could be in the Twins bullpen by September of 2014, and starting by 2015.

With a good, young starting rotation and decent organizational depth, the Nationals front office was willing to part with that potential in return for a player that unquestionably makes the Nats a better, more well-rounded offensive and defensive team.

If anything, it’s a testament to how far the Nationals have come – in years past, Meyer would have been hope for the future. Instead, he was a valuable asset used to improve the team right now.

Even so, the saying goes that you can never have too much pitching, and teams don’t part with arms like Meyer’s lightly.

This trade was a win for the Nationals, especially since Span remains under team control for up to three more years.

Still, Washington’s new centerfielder was no gift – and nobody understands that fact better than the Nationals themselves. 

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Stock Watch: Scherzer nearing the 20 win mark

Stock Watch: Scherzer nearing the 20 win mark

Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see which player's stock is rising or falling.  

Record: 4-2

Team slash: .269/.339/.426

Team ERA: 5.17

Runs per game: 6.2

 

STOCK UP 

Max Scherzer, SP: 2-0, 12.2 IP, 18 K

Another start, another win for Scherzer, who continues to make his case for the NL Cy Young Award. In fact, the Nats have won the last nine starts he’s made, while he’s posted a 2.87 ERA and 69-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio over that span. In Sunday’s season finale, the 31-year-old right hander will get a shot to earn his 20th win, a feat that would put the finishing touch on a stellar second season in D.C.

Reynaldo Lopez, RP:  1-0, 5.1 IP, 6 K, 0 ER

Given the circumstances, Saturday’s outing by Lopez might have been the finest of his rookie season. Coming in relief of Joe Ross in the third inning, the 24-year-old flamethrower tossed 5 1/3 shutout innings against the Pirates on the night that clinched the NL East title for the Nats. The performance was so impressive that Dusty Baker said after he’d consider adding Lopez to the playoff roster as a long man.

STOCK DOWN

Yusmeiro Petit, RP: 2 GP, 0-1, 2.0 IP, 5 ER

The Nats have a little over a week to configure their 25-man playoff roster, and the hardest part of the process might be putting together the bullpen. As mentioned earlier, Baker is considering adding Lopez as a potential long man. If that’s the case, would it come at Petit’s expense?

Lucas Giolito, RP:  1 GP, 2.0 IP, 4 ER   

The Nats starting rotation — especially when healthy — was obviously one of the driving forces of the team’s NL East title. That said, one of the more disappointing developments of 2016 was Giolito not emerging like the club hoped he would this year. Whether it was in a starting role or out of the bullpen, the 22-year-old prospect never quite showed the elite fastball he was said to have in the minors. Instead, he's throwing his heater in the low 90s, not fooling anyone in The Show. Of course, there's plenty of time for Giolito to progress and become the top-line starter the Nats expect him to be someday. But for now, there seems to be a larger-than-expected gap between what he is and what he could be. 

[MORE: DODGERS SET ROTATION FOR PLAYOFF SERIES AGAINST NATIONALS]

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Mets' prospect Tim Tebow hits home run on his first professional pitch

Mets' prospect Tim Tebow hits home run on his first professional pitch

Tim Tebow started his professional career Tuesday with the New York Mets instructional league team with a game against the Cardinals in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

He had about the best start you can think of, hitting the first pitch he saw over the left center field fence.

Tebow decided to take a swing at the major leagues after his pro football career flamed out.

The Denver Broncos picked him in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, and he played in 23 games for them, one of them a dramatic win over the Steelers in the first round of the 2011 playoffs.

He couldn't find his rhythm the next season and was traded to the Jets in March 2012. He was released the next year, then eventually spent short stints with the Jets and Patriots.

He tried his hand at broadcasting, taking a job at ESPN as a college football analyst in 2013 before taking one last shot at the NFL. He signed with the Eagles in 2015 but was released after their fourth preseason game.

There was a bit of controversy surrounding Tebow's move to baseball, a sport he hadn't played full-time since 2005. People questioned whether the former Heisman Trophy winner actually had what it takes, or if he was only getting a shot because he's Tim Tebow and the Mets wanted publicity. 

So far, so good.

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