An already disappointing Marlins season took a turn for the worse Thursday, as MLB.com’s Christina De Nicola tweets that an MRI revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament in top pitching prospect Max Meyer’s right elbow. He’ll undergo Tommy John surgery in the near future and miss the remainder of the 2022 campaign as well as the bulk of the 2023 season.
Meyer, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 draft, skyrocketed through the Marlins’ system and made his debut earlier this month, yielding five runs in 5 1/3 innings of work. His next outing lasted just two-thirds of an inning before he exited due to elbow discomfort that sent him to the injured list. He’ll now spend the remainder of the season and the majority of the 2023 campaign on the Major League injured list, accumulating MLB service time and pay for the time spent rehabbing.
Prior to that rocky big league debut and subsequent injury, Meyer was universally regarded as one of the sport’s brightest pitching prospects. The former University of Minnesota ace breezed through Double-A last season and was even better in a 10-inning look at Triple-A last year, logging a combined 2.27 ERA with a 28.6% strikeout rate against a 9.2% walk rate in 111 innings.
The 23-year-old Meyer roared out of the gates in 2022, logging a 1.72 ERA and 39-to-9 K/BB ratio in his first 31 1/3 innings, overpowering opponents with an upper-90s heater and devastating slider along the way. He struggled through a pair of awful outings in late May with Triple-A Jacksonville, however, ultimately going on the minor league injured list due to what the team termed irritation of the ulnar nerve in his right forearm. He came back strong — 2.11 ERA over his next five starts — and looked to be back on track for this month’s big league debut.
Whether Meyer had a tear prior to his big league promotion or didn’t sustain the tear until one of his two MLB outings, he’ll now be sidelined for the next year-plus. A return late in the 2023 season remains plausible, but that’s hardly a given. Every recovery is different, of course, but pitchers often take closer to 13 or 14 months to return from Tommy John surgery. For instance, we’re about one year to the day removed from Tigers righty Spencer Turnbull undergoing his own Tommy John procedure, and the organization just recently announced that Turnbull won’t return this season. If the Marlins are in contention in 2023, perhaps they’d push the envelope and take some risk to get Meyer back as a bullpen option late in the year, but they have every reason to be cautious with the flamethrowing righty, given how important a role he could play in their future.
Meyer joins fellow top prospects Edward Cabrera (elbow tendinitis), Sixto Sanchez (2021 surgery for torn anterior capsule in his shoulder) and Jake Eder (2021 Tommy John surgery) on the injured list. Miami has also seen 2021 Rookie of the Year candidate Trevor Rogers take a massive step back in his sophomore season. It’s all a good reminder — particularly at a time of year when fans and teams alike are wary of trading minor league pitching — that as easy as it is to dream on touted young arms , the attrition rate of pitching prospects is an unyielding roadblock that teams perennially struggle to navigate.