Prospect Q&A: D-backs Unsung RHP Anthony Meo on Competing with Arizona’s Top Arms, More
If Anthony Meo was upset last week, he wasn’t going to tell me about it.
I couldn’t blame him, however, if he would have been partly perturbed. Thursday’s D-backs-Braves deal, which sent Justin Upton to Atlanta for five players including pitching prospect Zeke Spruill and infielder prospect Nick Ahmed, bumped Meo from 10th to 12 among his organization’s top-ranked farmhands. In addition to Spruill, Arizona received another Atlanta pitcher in Randall Delgado. (Once a top prospect, Delgado has pitched enough MLB games to remove himself from such rankings).
So here’s the list of starting pitching prospects in front of or just behind Meo:
Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs, Archie Bradley, David Holmberg, Spruill, Evan Marshall, Andrew Chafin and Chase Anderson.
For the record, Meo — a 2011 second-round draftee and now 22 coming off his first pro season — was all smiles when I caught up with him over the phone. He was in Myrtle Beach, working out with a group of fellow Coastal Carolina alums and D-backs farmhands Cody Wheeler and Tyler Bortnick, and in approximately his third week of throwing the baseball around. Meo has been long-tossing and anticipates sneaking in a couple bullpen sessions before Spring Training.
Me: How would you evaluate your 2012 season? (Stats here)
Meo: I was happy with it. The biggest thing was staying healthy throughout the year. That league, the California League, is not that pitcher-friendly, but it was a good year learning how the hitters work compared to the college hitters and basically just getting my feet wet. I feel like I prepared myself for another season coming up.
Me: Did anything surprise you last season?
Meo: The biggest thing was I had some command issues early on. That is one thing I really plan to improve on this season. I know that being a starting pitcher you can’t give out free people on base all the time. Over a long period of time, it’s not going to be good.
Me: How do you improve command?
Meo: I think it’s just always trying to improve on it. We always mess around with little things, but I wouldn’t say it’s one thing.
Me: On the positive side, what encourages you about last season?
Meo: The strikeout numbers were there, which is a good thing. I felt like I had a lot of times where I ran myself into some trouble with some walks and was able to luckily get a lot of strikeouts, which helps me out a bunch.
Me: Tell us about your repertoire of pitches, and what you like’d to improve upon in 2013… Fastball, slider and cutter, correct?
Meo: I’ve got a two-seam fastball that I throw for the majority of my fastballs, but I also have a four-seam as well. I like to work both sides of the plate. I feel like throwing inside is very important, especially to good hitters. I throw a slider and a knuckle-curve, and also I’m working on a changeup. It has been improving. Every time I work on it, it gets better, so that’s the one big pitch for me this year that I’m trying to develop and throw when I’m behind in the count.
Me: Which of the pitches are you most confident in throwing?
Meo: I’d day the two-seamer and the slider have always been my out-pitches.
Me: Scouting reports note the effectiveness of your fastball might be best served in a relief role. What do you think?
Meo: I’ve always started, but I have come out of the ‘pen before. I don’t mind either way. Whatever I have to do to help a team win, I’m willing to do that. It’s nice to stay a starter as long as I can, I guess, but I wouldn’t be opposed to either role.
Me: What teammates or coaches in the organization have been of particular help to you?
Meo: My pitching coach at Visalia last year was Doug Drabek, and Doug helped me out all year. He was big. The guy has won a Cy Young [Award] before, so I try to take in everything that he says. Also, a buddy of mine, Andrew Chafin — we were drafted together and have been together through each level together. I have enjoyed [learning alongside] him.
Me: What have you picked up from Chafin?
Meo: We play catch together throughout the whole season and anything that comes up from a game we always talk about it and help each other improve. [The relationship] is good to have.
Me: And working with Drabek — what does it mean to have him as a coach?
Meo: I have a lot of respect for him. He’s obviously done it for a long time, and anytime you can get somebody’s advice or any sort of hints, you try to take in everything.
Me: Has Drabek or anyone else altered parts of your game in significant ways, or are you pitching similarly to your college days?
Meo: I’d say I stayed pretty similar. We haven’t changed much. If we do anything, it’s little things like [how to] grip a changeup. As far as big changes, they’ve let me stay myself, which is pretty good.
Me: I would guess the next step is Double-A Mobile. What do you have in store for 2013?
Meo: I’m always going to set the bar as high as I can. Basically, my main goal going into next season is just, wherever they send me, keep improving every time out there and hopefully it all ends up for the best. My dream, obviously, is to play in the Major Leagues.
Me: Alright, onto the lighting round: Being a D-backs prospect, what was your reaction to the Upton trade on Thursday?
Meo: Obviously, there have been rumors flying around all offseason about Upton. I never got to meet him, but I know he was probably the face of the franchise, so anytime a player like that moves, it’s a big move.
Me: Arizona got a couple more hurlers, Delgado and Spruill, in that trade, adding to a group that includes you, Skaggs, Bradley, Chafin, Holmberg and others. The pitching depth out there is pretty crazy, right?
Meo: Yeah, we have a lot of good arms. I think it’s a good thing. It’s a competition. Every one is going to go out there, every one has the same goal, which is to pitch in the big leagues. I think that having all these arms is a good competition for myself.
Me: If you could pick the brain of any pitcher, dead or alive, who would it be and what would you ask him?
Meo: I’d have to say Pedro Martinez. Growing up, he was always my role model, and I loved to watch Pedro pitch. Picking his brain, I would have to ask him basically just what the experience was like. I was a Red Sox fan.
Me: Best Italian restaurant in Arizona and your native state, Rhode Island?
Meo: Where I’m from in Rhode Island, there are a lot of Italian restaurants — Marchetti’s Restaurant is a favorite — but in Arizona you don’t get that there. Same thing in Myrtle Beach, just not the same as home.