RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
||Born: May 12, 1983
Height: 6′ 1″
Drafted: 11th Round, 332nd Overall, 2002
How Acquired: 2007 Rule 5 Draft, 2nd Pick
College: Bellevue CC
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|The Pirates selected Meek from Tampa Bay in the 2007 Rule 5 draft. His selection was a sign that then-new GM Neal Huntington at least had some analytical leanings, a new phenomenon for the analytically addled Pirates. The attraction with Meek was the fact that he had a high K rate while also producing a lot of groundballs. Under Dave Littlefield the Pirates preferred groundball pitchers with very low K rates, so the different philosophy was a step in the right direction. Meek’s main pitch is a sinking fastball that is often in the mid-90s. He also throws a splitter or cutter, a slider and a curve, all of which are effective pitches according to the data at fangraphs.com. He’s had a reverse platoon split in the majors.
Had a good debut in advanced rookie ball, pitching as both a starter and reliever.
Meek pitched briefly in low A (three starts) and advanced rookie ball and just couldn’t throw strikes.
Still unable to throw strikes in 13 low A games. The Twins released him in June.
Meek signed with the Padres and improved his command enough to make 25 starts in high A. The numbers weren’t good, but the hitting-crazy environment in the California League probably contributed to that, and in any event it was a big improvement over walking 2-3 batters per inning. His K rate was good and he allowed only five HRs, as his groundball tendencies were shown by his 1.85 groundout to air out ratio.
The Rays moved Meek to the bullpen and he pitched much like he had in 2006. He continued to get ground balls, with a 2.26 groundout to air out ratio and only two HRs allowed. He had a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League, which may be what attracted the Pirates’ attention.
After his selection in the Rule 5 draft, Meek pitched reasonably well in spring training, although his control still wasn’t good. He made the team and figured to be primarily a mopup reliever, a role that often produces considerable work with the Pirates. Ironically, though, the team’s starting pitching was so bad early that the bullpen was overworked and Meek got called into several close games. He struggled mightily to find strike zone in most of his appearances and, in May, the team sent him through waivers. After he cleared, they reached a deal with the Rays to retain Meek in exchange for cash. He went to AA and made significant strides with his control, earning a promotion to AAA. He did well there also, struggling in just a few games. At all levels, his groundout to air out ratio was above 2.00. The Pirates put Meek back on the 40-man roster in the fall.
Pitched well in Mexico in winter ball and also early in spring training. He probably would have made the team over Jesse Chavez, but missed the latter half of spring training with, in order, shoulder soreness, stomach flu and bronchitis. He was optioned to AAA, but was called up in late April when Craig Hansen went on the DL. For about three months he showed significant improvement over the previous year, but still had a ways to go, as shown by 20 walks and just 16 Ks in 27.2 innings in April through June. In July, however, Meek really started turning things around, fanning 26 and walking nine in his next 19.1 IP. He remained hard to hit throughout, allowing opposing batters to post an OPS of only .670 overall, despite the walks. The improvement came partly because his fastball velocity got better in the second half of the season, going from the low- to mid-90s. He also began throwing his cutter much more often, and throwing curves often instead of sliders. He continued to be a very strong groundball pitcher. Unfortunately, he went out for the year with an oblique strain in mid-August.
Meek had a breakout season, posting outstanding numbers and deservedly making the All-Star team, a selection that was blindly and reflexively ridiculed by the know-nothing national media, what with Meek being a Pirate and all. His control continued to improve, although it faltered in the season’s second half. He walked ten in 44 IP through June and 21 in 36 IP afterward. What problems he had came mainly in August, when he allowed eight of his season’s total of 19 earned runs. He continued to be a strong groundball pitcher, which helped him limit opponents’ slugging average to just .273. He benefited from a little good fortune, as his batting average on balls in play, .224, was not be sustainable. His BABIP in 2009 was only .261, though, so he probably is just hard to hit with any authority. Velocity was erratic as he may have gotten tired at times from the unaccustomed workload. Overall, average fastball was up from the previous year, from around 93 to 95, and he often registered 96-97. After the team traded Octavio Dotel, Meek got some closing opportunities, but more often set up Joel Hanrahan.
Meek was expected to be the Pirates’ 8th inning pitcher, but his season was undermined by health issues. He was ill during spring training and not at full strength when the season started. He went on the DL complaining of shoulder weakness, with his velocity down a little from 2010. As the WHIP shows, his ERA was misleading. When he returned in late May he was fine for three outings–in fact, he struck out the side in his first one–but after getting hammered in his next three games he went back on the DL with shoulder tendonitis. He was eventually transferred to the 60-day DL, although surgery wasn’t recommended. He returned again in late August, did a rehab for the last week of the AAA season, then spent most of September with the Pirates. He struggled with his control, walking seven in six and a third innings, and his velocity was down further to the low-90s.
Meek was eligible for arbitration and the Pirates tendered him a contract at the deadline. He came to spring training in better shape than previously, but early on his velocity was still down in the low-90s and he wasn’t pitching effectively. He made the major league roster anyway, but struggled throughout April. His velocity averaged just under 93, which is good but not up to the average of a little over 95 in 2010. The Pirates optioned him to AAA at the end of April and he was recalled twice just briefly. He was hard to hit in AAA and kept the ball on the ground, but he had significant control problems. Most importantly, his stuff didn’t bounce back. His fastball velocity stayed below 93 and he didn’t miss bats the way he had previously. The Pirates designated him for assignment when they called up Rick VandenHurk. He went unclaimed and was outrighted to AAA.
Meek will be eligible for minor league free agency in the off-season. Given how far he’s slipped down the depth chart, it’s likely he’ll want to sign elsewhere.
|2012: $875,000 (avoided arbitration)
|Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 2003
MLB Debut: 4/2/2008
MLB FA Eligible: 2015
MiLB FA Eligible: 2012
Added to 40-Man: 12/6/2007
Options Remaining: 1 (USED: 2009, 2012)
MLB Service Time: 3.037
|June 4, 2002: Drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 11th round, 332nd overall pick; signed as a draft-and-follow on May 27, 2003.
June 22, 2005: Released by the Minnesota Twins.
September 17, 2005: Signed by the San Diego Padres as a free agent.
August 24, 2006: Acquired by the Tampa Bay Rays from the San Diego Padres, along with a player to be named later in exchange for Russell Branyan. San Diego sent Dale Thayer to Tampa Bay to complete the trade.
December 6, 2007: Selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates from the Tampa Bay Rays with the 2nd pick in the 2007 Rule 5 Draft.
May 15, 2008: Returned by the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Tampa Bay Rays.
May 15, 2008: Purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates from the Tampa Bay Rays.
November 10, 2008: Contract purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
September 10, 2012: Designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates; outrighted to AAA on September 17.