Name: Casey Meisner
Height/Weight: 6’7’’, 190
How Acquired: Traded by the NY Mets for RHP Tyler Clippard and cash considerations on July 27, 2015.
Still only 22, Casey Meisner has experienced a myriad of ups and downs in his professional career. After finally getting through A-ball, can Meisner keep the positive momentum rolling in 2018?
When Meisner first joined the Oakland A’s organization in July 2015, he made it look easy, at least on paper. The right-hander had a 2.78 ERA in seven starts with High-A Stockton after the trade. That came on the heels of a productive start to the season in the New York Mets’ organization, when he posted ERAs of 2.13 and 2.83 in Low-A and High-A before the trade.
Going into the 2016 season, Meisner was part of several publications’ top-10 A’s prospects lists. Some predicted that Meisner would jump to Double-A to start the 2016 season, and most assumed he’d spend at least a half season at that level. Instead, Meisner ran into a buzz saw with Stockton. He went 0-11 to start the year and finished the season with a 1-14 record and a 4.85 ERA.
Meisner’s command was shaky all season. He walked 59 in 117 innings and he left too many pitches over the middle of the plate, resulting in a .275 BAA. Meisner showed some improvement with his command late in the year, but the A’s had him return to Stockton for a third season at the start of 2017.
At the start of the 2017 season, it looked as though there would be more of the same from Meisner. He posted an 8.84 ERA in 18.1 innings and allowed four home runs. However, Meisner walked only four and the Stockton coaching staff felt he was pitching better than those results indicated. By May, Meisner’s numbers started to reflect that improvement. In 30 innings that month, he had a 2.70 ERA and a 37:9 K:BB. Then in June, Meisner posted a 2.05 ERA and a 27:7 K:BB. Finally, on June 26, Meisner punched his ticket out of the California League.
A’s Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman says that Meisner’s struggles in Stockton will only help him as he continues to make his way through the minor leagues.
“I think sometimes the grind is better than the promotion. Working through things. Getting yourself to a place where you have to continue to battle and fight your way out. That’s what he did,” Lieppman said in a post-season interview. “The promotion came after he exhibited the ability to use his pitches to limit the number of walks – that’s always been an issue with him – and compete. He’s gone out there and done that. He’s certainly better. Sometimes it is better to work through a problem and really solve it before you prematurely send him and he has to work through it all again [at the next level]. I think he has improved quickly this year and I think that experience has helped him.”
Meisner was able to take his experience overcoming hurdles in Stockton and put it to good use right away with Midland. He struggled at the outset of his Double-A debut. Over his first six starts for the RockHounds, Meisner posted a 6.59 ERA in 27.1 innings pitched. Over his last six starts, Meisner had a 2.02 ERA in 30.2 innings pitched. He appeared in one post-season game for Midland, allowing a run in 3.1 innings.
Between Stockton and Midland, Meisner finished the 2017 season with a 4.04 ERA and a 117:47 K:BB in 133.2 innings. His command was significantly improved with Stockton, but it faltered again in Midland, especially early in his stint with the RockHounds. Once Meisner grew more comfortable in Double-A, he attacked the strike-zone more aggressively and found more success.
Like many tall pitchers, Meisner – who stands 6’7’’ – has struggled with his mechanics, especially with his landing leg. A’s coaches worked with Meisner to make several adjustments to get him more online to home plate and to take more advantage of his length. It took Meisner awhile to get comfortable with the changes, but he looked smoother and more confident for much of 2017. He also developed a better pre-game and in-between start routine, which helped him game-plan better for his starts.
Meisner’s fastball generally sits in the low-90s, but he can bump it up to 95 on occasion. As he continues to get more comfortable with his mechanics, Meisner may start maintaining the higher-end of his velo readings. He has a good mix of secondary offerings, including a change-up, a cut-fastball and a slider. Meisner has been a flyball pitcher throughout his career, but he has done a decent job of avoiding the home run ball, allowing 0.73 HR/9 during his minor league career.
Although Meisner is entering his sixth professional season, he won’t turn 23 until May. There is still plenty of growth potential in the right-hander. Tall pitchers often take longer to develop, and Meisner’s inconsistency is not unlike the struggles of former A’s prospect Ryan Webb early in his professional career. It took Webb five seasons before everything clicked and he developed into a solid major league reliever.
Meisner is likely to start the 2018 season with Double-A Midland, but he could make the jump to Triple-A partway through the season if he gets off to a strong start.
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