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System Sundays: A Brief Look at Ryan Meisinger

A scouting report on a recently-added pitcher.

Baltimore Orioles v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Morning, everybody.

I was planning on having my big final system writeup done today, but ran out of time to work on it this week. Hopefully tomorrow, then the second part of the just-missed list on Wednesday.

Anyway, since the big piece isn’t done for this morning, I’m going to write up a player someone mentioned in the comments yesterday; a player whose name has come up surprisingly often recently, though mostly only in passing. He’s been part of a couple minor league transactions this offseason, most recently being outrighted and assigned to the Memphis roster after having passed through waivers.

The reason Ryan Meisinger was passing through waivers is because he was the player chosen to get bumped off the 40 man roster to make room for the Cards’ recent signing of Andrew Miller. The 40 man was full, the Cardinals and Miller came to terms, and since the club couldn’t find another roster cleanup kind of trade in time, they had to put Meisinger on waivers and risk losing him to open up a spot. Luckily, he passed through waivers unclaimed, which isn’t all that surprising considering how many clubs are dealing with roster crunches of their own while still trying to navigate their ways through whatever offseason moves they’re considering, and went to Triple A.

I say luckily because I like Ryan Meisinger. I think he has a chance to be a very useful reliever in pretty short order. So let’s take a quick look at this recent Redbird, shall we?

Ryan Meisinger, RHP

6’4”, 235 lbs; Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 4 May 1994

Level(s) in 2018: Orioles’ AA, AAA, and MLB

Relevant Stats: 17.5% K-BB% (AA), 23.2% K-BB% (AAA), 32.1% K (AAA)

So, what’s so great about this guy?

The Cardinals picked up Meisinger on a waiver claim from the Orioles earlier this offseason, when Baltimore tried to pass him through as, okay, I don’t actually know how to finish that sentence. I honestly don’t know what Baltimore is doing currently, and really have no idea what impetus caused them to decide to boot Meisinger off their 40 man roster. He threw 21 quite bad innings for the O’s in 2018, so maybe they just decided they don’t think he’s any good?

Teams as bad as Baltimore are very difficult to analyse. Unless Meisinger is secretly injured, I really don’t see any reason why the Orioles would be so eager to clear a roster spot by waiving him; it’s not as if they particularly need that spot. You really are talking about a deck chairs on the Titanic kind of situation basically no matter what a club like that does right now; might as well see if a high-strikeout bullpen arm performs well and turns into a useful trade chip, to my mind. Oh well.

Anyhow, let’s just focus on Meisinger, who brings an intriguing track record of performance to the Cardinals, with a less-intriguing scouting report. Or at least a scouting report that doesn’t exactly jump off the page.

Meisinger belongs to that somewhat unusual demographic of below-average velocity, above-average strikeout pitchers. Once upon a time, Luke Gregerson was the king of this kind of guy, rarely breaking 92 but rolling up 25%+ strikeout rates all throughout his career. Seung-Hwan Oh was one of these guys, and actually feels pretty similar to Meisinger to me. Usually that means you’re talking about a pitcher with a remarkable offspeed or breaking pitch, and such is the case with Meisinger.

He works with a fastball in the 90-93 range that’s fairly straight and even looks to have a little cut to it at times, and in the minors had plenty of success locating the pitch where he wanted. In the majors that was not so much the case, which we’ll get to in a moment. Meisinger’s real bread and butter pitch, though, is a slider, or maybe a hard curve, that can very much be called a swing and miss offering. The pitch comes in in the low 80s, and has unusual depth for a slider, or unusual sharpness for a curveball, or just an unusual level of quality for a slurve, depending on what you want to call it. He leans on it pretty heavily, somewhat unsurprisingly, and for the most part even with heavy usage he’s able to work hitters over with the breaker pretty well.

The issue for Meisinger, as is the case with most pitchers of his ilk, is that his modest velocity leaves him without a great amount of margin for error, and specifically makes him very vulnerable to home runs when he leaves a fastball over the middle of the plate. Trevor Rosenthal, whose own fastball resembles a 1.25x version of Meisinger’s, could get away with challenging a hitter in the zone, because even thigh high and over the plate sometimes gets missed at 98. At 92, not so much.

There’s a little bit of deception to Meisinger’s delivery, it looks to me, as he hides the ball down behind him and hesitates ever so slightly on his way to the plate. He’ll basically work the fastball and slider in a roughly 50/50 split, and that’s probably what he needs to do to be successful.

Meisinger, to me at least, appears to be a bet the Cardinals placed on a high strikeout rate pitcher in lieu of participating in the Rule V draft this year. They essentially saw a pitcher of the sort they might have been considering in the Rule V anyway put on waivers and decided to just grab him through that process rather than wait and see what shook loose a few weeks later. The most likely outcome is that Meisinger serves as little more than organisational depth for the club this season, but I do think there’s a potentially solid seventh inning type reliever waiting to happen there if he can keep his fastball out of the middle of the plate. He posted consistently outstanding strikeout to walk ratios in the minors, then got to the major leagues and let the stage get a little too big for him, I think. (Camden Yards being a very, very tough park in which to pitch may have exacerbated that a bit too.)

In short, I don’t really think Ryan Meisinger is going to make or break the Cardinals’ season plans, whether he makes his way back on to the 40 man roster or not this offseason. He is, however, exactly the kind of potentially undervalued asset you should be combing through the minors and looking for when it comes time for clubs to make roster decisions, and could, I think, make some sort of contribution at the big league level in 2019.