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UK junior Alex Meyer signs with Nationals just before Monday evening draft deadline

Kentucky junior right-handed starting pitcher Alex Meyer has agreed to terms with the Washington Nationals as a first-round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, the team announced just after the 11:59 p.m. deadline to sign draft picks Monday.


“Thanks to everyone in Lexington for all the support over the last three years,” Meyer said on Twitter. I “had the time of my life. Ready to start the next part of my career with the Washington Nationals.”


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Meyer was the 23rd overall selection in the 2011 MLB Draft and second first-round pick of the Nationals. Meyer’s selection marked the highest a UK player had been drafted since Chad Green went No. 8 overall in the 1996 MLB Draft. He was UK’s fourth overall first-round pick in UK promgram history joining Green, James Paxton (2009, No. 37 overall) and Joe Blanton (2002, No. 24 overall).


A 6-foot-9, 220-pound right-hander, Meyer completed his collegiate career in 2011 as the with a second-team All-Southeastern Conference selection from the league’s coaches. As UK’s Friday-night starter in 2011, Meyer led UK in starts (14), wins (seven), ERA (2.94), complete games (four), complete-game shutouts (two), innings pitched (101), strikeouts (110) and opponent batting average (.222).


A 20th-round pick of the Boston Red Sox out of high school in 2008, Meyer finished his junior campaign as the SEC leader in strikeouts, strikeouts looking (48), innings pitched per game (7.21), complete games and complete-game shutouts. Meyer ranked second in the SEC in innings pitched, ninth in ERA, eighth in wins, second in strikeouts per game (9.8) and fifth in opponent batting average. With his 110 strikeouts in 2011, Meyer became the 10th player in UK history to total 100 or more strikeouts in a season, ranking eighth-best in UK annals. Meyer ranked ninth in the NCAA in strikeouts in 2011 and finished his career with 253 strikeouts in 211.1 innings, the fifth-most strikeouts in school history.


Meyer was twice honored as the SEC Pitcher of the Week as a junior, also earning Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week accolades. He finished the year on a tear, tossing six consecutive quality starts and totaling a 4-1, 1.97 ERA in those outings. In his 10 quality starts as a junior, Meyer posted a 6-3 record and a 1.88 ERA. In a three-start span to conclude his junior season, Meyer went 3-0 with a 1.61 ERA, with wins over No. 1 Vanderbilt, Georgia and No. 4 Florida.


While Meyer signed with the Nationals, UK did receive some positive draft news for its 2012 team as junior catcher and first baseman Michael Williams elected to return to school instead of sign with the San Francisco Giants. Williams was the Giants 37th-round selection in the 2011 season after a year in which he batted .264 with seven home runs and 23 RBIs. He is the eight UK junior draftee to return to school for his senior season in the last five years.


In the days before the Monday signing deadline, University of Louisville junior right-handed pitcher Tony Zych (Cubs, 4th round), Warren East High School right-handed pitcher Mark Biggs (Blue Jays, 8th round), St. Xavier High School right-handed pitcher Matt Spalding (Red Sox, 29th round) and Boone County High School first baseman Jackson Laumann (Braves, 31st round) also signed professional contracts.


In total, 10 Kentucky draftees — UofL right-handed pitcher Derek Self (Athletics, 27th round), Lafayette High School outfielder Jonathan Youngblood (Braves, 30th round), Lexington Catholic High School outfielder Tyler Wells (Red Sox, 31st round), UK catcher Michael Williams (Giants 37th round), UofL right-handed pitcher Mike Nastold (Phillies 37th round), UofL right-handed pitcher Justin Amlung (Reds, 39th round), Lexington Catholic right-handed pitcher Taylor Martin (Rockies, 41st round), Lawrence County High School right-handed pitcher Chandler Shepherd (White Sox, 41st round), Ballard High School second baseman Sutton Whiting (Braves, 44th round), and Western Kentucky University outfielder Ryan Hutchison — chose college over signing a professional contract.


According to the Baseball America draft database, none of UK’s five out-of-state high school signees who were selected in the draft — infielder Max Kuhn (Athletic’s, 24th round), right-handed pitcher Andrew Reed (Mets, 25th round), right-handed pitcher Christopher Garrison (Cubs, 28th round), right-handed pitcher Jerad Grundy (Marlins, 42nd round), and catcher Gregory Fettes (Tigers, 43rd round) — signed professional contracts. Chandler and Shepherd will also attend UK.


Four out-of-state UofL signees — left-handed pitcher Adam Schemenauer (Royals, 12th round), right-handed pitcher Nick Burdi (Twins, 24th round), right-handed-pitcher Jared Ruxer (Indians, 29th round), and right-handed pitcher Joey Ceja (Marlins, 38th round) — did not sign, according to the Baseball America draft database. Whiting will also attend UofL, and Biggs was on campus taking classes this summer before electing to sign with the Blue Jays.


Photo of Meyer by Jon Hale.

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