Just as the baseball world was beginning to get back to normal in February, Tylor Megill had a wrench thrown into his plans.
The Mets pitching prospect had gotten pretty used to waiting to play. He only pitched in a short-season league after getting drafted in 2018, suffered a shoulder injury that kept him from starting games until July 2019, and was one of the many victims of the canceled 2020 minor league season.
Megill was ready to let it fly in 2021. To convey their confidence in his future, the Mets invited him to major league camp, offering unparalleled access to veteran pitchers and the coaching staff. Shortly after he arrived though, Megill tested positive for COVID-19 and was ultimately limited to one brief outing.
Megill and his lack of experience remained somewhat of a mystery heading into the minor league season. One-and-a-half months in, he has already answered many of the questions.
“Staying in routine with what I’m doing, and every time I’m out there on the mound just attacking hitters and having a ton of confidence in all my stuff,” Megill said on this week’s Mets Prospective presented by Verizon. “Once the ball leaves my hand, that’s about everything I can do.”
The 6-foot-7 right-hander has been one of the organization’s top performers thus far, needing just five starts at Double-A Binghamton to force a promotion to Triple-A Syracuse. Through seven total starts, Megill has a 3.06 ERA with an organization-best 53 strikeouts in 35.1 innings.
With the Mets’ rotation depth continuing to be challenged, Megill now sits at the doorstep of reaching his dream.
“There are a lot of great players here [in Triple-A] but if the opportunity ever presents itself, I’m going to be ready to go,” he said.
Megill is an interesting case as far as evaluating prospects go. He tore through Double-A in May, but as a soon-to-be 26-year-old, it’s worth wondering if he should have opened the season in Triple-A anyway. Then again, due to the aforementioned stops and starts throughout his career, he has less mileage on his arm than most pitchers his age (99.2 pro innings entering 2021).
Megill’s bread and butter is his fastball, which he was able to get away with throwing nearly exclusively in Double-A because hitters struggled to touch it. He isn’t quite reaching the upper 90s that it was reported he touched in bullpens in 2020, but his heater has comfortably sat in the 94-96 mph range throughout his starts — more than enough for a starter who has flashed the command of the pitch he has.
He does however spot the pitch frequently at the bottom of the zone, a strategy that runs counter to the modern philosophy of letting a fastball with good spin ride at the top of the strike zone. Given that Megill throws from a lower release point than most pitchers his size, he could maximize his fastball’s potential by throwing up.
Megill’s future hinges on the development of his offspeed and breaking pitches. Average offerings would push him to the bullpen, while continued refinement — the path currently being followed — would give him a chance to stick in a major league rotation.
He throws a slider with sharp break that he commands the best of his three secondary pitches, but he’ll have to be nearly perfect with the pitch as Triple-A hitters will take advantage of mistakes. Megill has continued to work on his feel for a changeup and curveball, the latter of which could pair well with an elevated fastball.
Coaches like Jonathan Hurst and Ricky Meinhold have worked closely with Megill as he tries to prove his stuff is major league-ready. The message is clear: “Let your stuff play.”
“Just getting ahead in counts, and really trying to bear down in those 1-2, 0-2, 2-2 (situations),” Megill said. “Really just making quality pitches to where batters are swinging or putting balls in play with weak contact. I think that’s going to be the biggest improvement in my pitching game, just executing those ahead-in-count pitches.”
Of course, it’s hard to talk to a better coach than one who has already and reached the majors and just so happens to share the same blood. Megill’s older brother Trevor had a 3.38 ERA in four minor league seasons before reaching the major leagues with the Cubs this year.
“He just tells me to trust my stuff, I’m there for a reason,” Tylor said. “Attack hitters, don’t get nitpicky and into tight situations and hitter’s counts. Trust your stuff go after every hitter.”
Despite his age, Megill has thrust himself into the conversation for the top healthy pitching prospect in the Mets system. With Matt Allan sidelined until perhaps 2023, a recently recovered J.T. Ginn still building back up after Tommy John surgery, and Thomas Szapucki facing more downs than ups recently, Megill’s performance and major league proximity should be enough for fans to start getting familiar with the name.