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Drew Meyer...legitimate prospect?

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When Grady Fuson lost the power struggle with Buck Showalter and John Hart last summer, the biggest strike against him was the very first draft choice he ever made for the Rangers -- using his 2002 first rounder on University of South Carolina shortstop Drew Meyer. Meyer had been a second round pick of the Dodgers out of high school in 1999, and was considered a quality prospect in the 2002 draft, but was viewed as someone who'd go in the 20-30 range...BA's said that the Rangers' pick of Meyer "shocked everyone," and with no other picks until the 6th round, Fuson was basically betting his entire draft on Meyer.

The second-guessing started immediately, and last summer, when Fuson was forced out, the pick looked particularly bad...the 2002 first round produced quite a few quality prospects, and first rounders selected after Meyer included Jeremy Hermida, Nick Swisher, Scott Kazmir, Jeff Francoeur, Joe Blanton, and Dan Meyer.

The most damning comparison, though, was between Meyer -- who was in the midst of a disastrous, injury-plagued campaign at Frisco, while folks whispered about off-the-field issues he was supposedly battling -- and San Diego's Khalil Greene. Greene was, like Meyer, a college shortstop playing in South Carolina (Clemson, in Greene's case), was selected three slots later, got $375K less as a signing bonus, and was having a ROY-caliber campaign for the Pads last season while Meyer was flopping in Frisco.

If you believe the local media reports, Greene's emergence in the majors while Meyer was busting in AA was Exhibit "A" in the campaign to keep Fuson from ascending to the G.M. post, and leave John Hart in place.

And Drew Meyer appeared to be heading the way of Scott Heard and Donald Harris...

This spring, though, the tide began to turn. Buck Showalter praised Meyer from the outset for his attitude and energy. Meyer went to Frisco and, after a slow start, got his bat going, ultimately earning a promotion to Oklahoma, where he's not setting the world on fire, but where he is still hitting a little bit.

So the question becomes, was Drew Meyer written off too soon? I have to admit, I'm a bit biased, since one of my pre-season predictions was that Meyer would re-establish himself as a legitimate prospect.

But if we take a step back, take a fresh look at Meyer and what he's done this season, he becomes someone who, while not a blue chip, may need to be considered as something more than just a fringe guy.

The knock on Meyer has always been his bat, and while he hasn't been tearing it up this year, he has at least been holding his own. He hit .321/.372/.417 at Frisco before his promotion, and after tonight's Redhawk game, is sitting around .273/.346/.385 for Oklahoma.

Is that a great offensive performance? No, absolutely not. But on the other hand, even though Meyer was a college draftee three years ago, he's still just 23 years old (he turns 24 at the end of the month), so he does still have room on the development curve for expected improvement.

As a point of comparison, when Khalil Greene (a college senior draftee two years older than Meyer) was Meyer's age, he hit .275/.327/.406 at AA and .288/.346/.442 at AAA while splitting the season between the two levels, before hitting .215/.271/.400 as a September callup.

If Meyer can get the bat going to the point where he can at least be respectable, hold his own offensively, he's likely someone who can be a major league starter. Meyer has always gotten great reviews for his speed and arm, and has been off the charts in those intangibles like hustle, make-up, and baseball intelligence that managers love.

While Meyer was drafted as a middle infielder, there has long been talk about moving him permanently to center field, and he's gotten a fair amount of time there this season. With his plus speed, plus arm, and (by all reports) terrific baseball instincts, he'd appear to be a natural fit in center.

Personally, the only times I've seen Meyer, he's been in the infield, either at short or at second. I haven't watched him play center, and I can't say definitively that he can handle the position well.

But given the questions surrounding the future of Laynce Nix right now, I'd like to see the Rangers stick Meyer in centerfield for Oklahoma in 2006, leave him there all season, and see how well he adjusts. Meyer is a guy who, from what I have seen and understand, would appear to have the tools to be a terrific defensive centerfielder.

And while Meyer is likely never going to hit for power, if he can give you plus defense in center, along with an OBP around .350 and plus base-stealing ability, he's a pretty decent guy to have manning the position. In the alternative, he's someone who could possibly fill a Chone Figgins-esque super-utility role.

The jury is still out on Meyer, no question. He may still end up as a bust, a flame-out. But his performance this year is good enough to get him back on the map.

In the meantime, if anyone has any firsthand thoughts/opinions/reviews on Meyer's defensive capabilities in center, please post them in the comments section...