The major leagues are only a dream for players in New York-League. They can only imagine sharing the same dugout or clubhouse with a player who achieved a lengthy career at the highest level. Mets’ sixth round pick Nick Meyer is a possible exception to the rule having caught Noah Syndergaard and Jason Vargas in consecutive rehab starts with the Brooklyn Cyclones in early July.
“It was pretty awesome,” Meyer said. “I heard both of them were coming and I was just fortunate enough to catch them. Syndergaard was electric. He’s a top five pitcher in the big leagues. Everything he throws, moves. It was fun to catch them to prove to myself that I can someone with that kind of talent was pretty cool.”
Getting a feel for a major league pitcher takes time without much time to prepare. Bullpens and side sessions help ease the unfamiliarity, but it cannot replace the atmosphere of an actual game. In the midst of each start, Meyer had the learn the tendencies of each starter, block balls in the dirt, and avoid the fear of potentially getting crossed up calling the wrong pitch. Meyer handled the situation adeptly as Syndergaard and Vargas allowed just one run between the two outings.
“It was difficult at first,” Meyer said. “Warming up in the bullpen, throwing two-seams that were moving five feet took some time to get used to, but the first time is not always going to be too easy. I got into the game and the first three pitches were kind of crazy. I was sitting on the mound and he (Syndergaard) hit me once. It’s scary, but after that he settled in and it was really fun to catch them.”
Cal Poly takes pride in the ability of their catchers to control all facets of the game in front of the backstop. In three of the last five years, the school boasts having a Big West Defensive Player of the Year with Meyer being the most recent recipient. Meyer’s game-calling skills and propensity for blocking balls in the dirt helped turn him a catching prospect worthy of a selection in the top ten rounds of the most recent class.
“I pride myself on defense a lot,” Meyer said. “I never take by at-bats to the field. Sometimes it’s hard not to, but my job is running the defense, keep everyone going, and be the backstop behind the plate. Being able to provide good defense for a pitcher is everything. Stealing strikes for them and nothing gets by you helps the team win and helps pitchers get through innings.”
A prime influence for Meyer during his time at Cal Poly was head coach Larry Lee. In 15 years at the helm, Lee helped shape a baseball program that produced 30 players taken in the first ten rounds of the amateur draft. The fundamentals of the game take importance in the overall development of each player at the program, highlighted by three NCAA Tournament appearances since 2009.
“Coach Lee is a huge mentor to me and made me the player I am today,” Meyer said. “He’s taught me so much from the day I stepped on campus until the day I left. We had a relationship where I can go into his office and talk about our team. He taught me about baseball in general and I’d like to be a coach one day and he also taught me about coaching and a lot of little things.”
Known primarily for his defense, Meyer showed some promise with his bat during his tenure with the Cyclones, batting .276/.329/.355 in his first month with good bat control skills and a decent batting eye. Although the power hasn’t developed thus far, scouts profile Meyer with a ceiling of a backup catcher in the major leagues. At 170th overall, Meyer is the highest catcher drafted by the Mets since Kevin Plawecki in the first round in 2012 and knows he has time to further his skillset.
“Right now I’m not the biggest guy,” Meyer said. “I’m not the type that drives ball over the fence or hitting too many extra base hits, but I really pride myself on not striking out and having really good at-bats every time up and hit the ball hard. I started off well hitting balls hard. Catchers that don’t strike out, put the ball in play and hit a little bit can go a long way. The power will come eventually.”
Joining the Mets organization should benefit Meyer given their strong track record at the catching position either though player development or external acquisions. Based on their reputation behind the plate, Meyer knew the Mets were his best fit and hopes to justify his status with hard work to earn eventual promotion. Meyer will serve as the Cyclones’ everyday catcher and continue to familiarize himself with their pitching staff.
“On draft day my advisor told me I could go to the Mets and that I should hope to go there because it is my best fit,” Meyer said. “When I got my named by the Mets I was ecstatic. The catching is good here and I’m ready to work to show people that I deserve to move my way and be in the bigs one day.”