MLB Draft Preview: Max Meyer primed to make Gophers history

If Meyer is picked before No. 22, it will be the highest a Gophers’ pitcher has been selected in program history.

5Sophomore Max Meyer pitches the ball on Saturday, May 4, 2019 at Siebert Field. The Gophers beat the Ohio State Buckeyes 5-4 in the bottom of the 18th inning. 

Tony Saunders

5Sophomore Max Meyer pitches the ball on Saturday, May 4, 2019 at Siebert Field. The Gophers beat the Ohio State Buckeyes 5-4 in the bottom of the 18th inning. 

Paul Hodowanic

When Max Meyer hears his name called during Wednesday’s 2020 MLB Draft, he will likely make Gopher history.

The junior from Woodbury has been hailed as a consensus first round pick, one with a high chance to crack the first 10 picks and potentially the top five, thanks to a knee-buckling slider and a fastball that tops out around 100 miles per hour. 

If Meyer is picked in the first round, it will be ninth time a Gopher was selected in the opening round of the draft. If he’s picked within the first 21 picks, Meyer will be the highest pitcher ever selected from the University of Minnesota, eclipsing Glen Perkins who the Minnesota Twins picked No. 22 in 2004. Finally, if Meyer is picked within the top 10 picks, Meyer will be the highest Gopher player drafted since Dan Wilson in 1990.

Most projections have Meyer comfortably slated inside the top 10, lauding his high-speed fastball and a slider that some have called “the best pitch in the entire MLB Draft.”

“I really don’t know what to think. It feels like yesterday we were still getting ready to play some baseball,” Meyer said. “But the time’s flown by, and I don’t really even know what to think or expect on draft night. It’s definitely going to be a great feeling being by my family and them enjoying the moment with me.”

During his time at Minnesota, Meyer struck out 187 batters in 148 innings, while keeping his earned run average around 2.00 every season. Meyer’s experience in the bullpen and as a starter should help him acclimate to whatever situation he finds himself in and could allow him to rise in the minor league system quicker than many prospects because of his strong pitching in the bullpen. 

Meyer has kept busy despite Minnesota’s season ending early. After lifting weights three times a week during the season, Meyer has upped it to five times a week since the season was canceled. It has helped him increase his weight from around 180 to 200 pounds. 

The added weight should help him avoid injuries at the next level and help calm concerns scouts have that his frame may not be able to hold up, which has been a common criticism since Meyer was in high school. 

Heading into his freshman year at the University in 2017, Meyer was drafted in the 34th round by the Minnesota Twins, which came as a surprise to Meyer as he thought he was too small to get drafted. Meyer opted to stay at the University to improve his draft stock, which has certainly come to fruition. Meyer has added over 10 miles per hour to his fastball and has developed his slider into one of the best pitches in the entire draft, according to MLB.com. 

As of last Thursday, Meyer said he has interviewed with 10 to 12 teams and is hearing from around six to seven teams on a consistent basis. He said he talks to teams almost every day, Monday through Friday. 

Despite the lack of a full season, Meyer doesn’t feel any rust. 

“It’s kind of like riding a bike for me. I’m confident in myself, and I’ve never struggled too hard picking up where I left out. I feel fresh. My throwing routine is going good. I’ll be ready to go for whatever team picks me,” Meyer said. 

The only other Gopher ranked inside Baseball America’s top-500 rankings is incoming freshman pitcher George Klassen at No. 259. Klassen — a right-handed pitcher from Port Washington, Wisconsin — is listed as No. 44 among high school right-handed pitchers and No. 57 among all high school pitchers. During a normal year, the MLB draft consists of 40 rounds, making Klassen a near lock to be selected. However, this year’s draft was cut to only five rounds and 160 picks because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which significantly hurts his chances.

The MLB Draft begins Wednesday at 6 p.m. CT with live coverage on ESPN and MLB Network. 

Nick Jungheim contributed to this report.