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Austin Meadows is Starting to Show Why He’s One of Baseball’s Best Prospects

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ALTOONA, PA – Back on May 12th, Austin Meadows was batting .148 with a .398 OPS. He was averaging more than one strikeout every game, and he wasn’t walking much.

“I think it’s only a matter of time before he gets hot,” Curve manager Joey Cora said about Meadows after another tough day at the plate for the recently turned 21-year-old outfield prospect. “I’m not worried about him at all. He started Spring Training late, and he’s still in the beginning of his year. He’ll be fine.”

Cora’s faith in the Pirates’ prized outfield prospect never wavered, and he was right on the money with what he said about Austin Meadows. Since May 13th while the Curve were in the midst of a seven-day road trip, Meadows has turned a complete 180° at the plate. Check out the numbers:

Meadows - 2016 Statistics

His recent hot stretch includes an eight game hitting streak, where five of those eight games saw Meadows have multiple hits. He also has ten extra base hits in his last 15 games – eight doubles, three triples, and a home run.

Meadows said that he knew he would break out of the early season slide and that he simply needed to stick to the process that has gotten him to where he is.

“It’s a process,” Meadows told Pirates Prospects. “You just have to trust the process and know that your numbers are going to be where they are supposed to be at the end of the year. You have to grind through it, then go out and enjoy each and every day.”

Asked if he was tempted to try anything differently to try to help him break out of the slump, he was adamant that it was not in his nature to just start trying new things or adding to his routine.

“I’m just trying to stick to my plan and to my routines that I’ve been doing since the start of my career,” Meadows said right before he went on his current hitting streak. “It’s really helped me through this season — just sticking to the process.”

Before his swing started coming around in mid-May, nothing really seemed to be working right at the plate for Meadows. He was striking out at a rate he has never before seen in his career (25.8% through May 12th).  He was putting the ball on the ground towards the second baseman much more than he ever has before, too. According to MLBFarm.com, Meadows only put three balls in play that would be considered a line drive in that early season span.

When Meadows is at his best, he is hitting to hot spots all across the outfield. He is able to pull for power to right field and go with the pitches on the outer part of the plate to center and left field. In addition, his line drive rate has been right around 20% between 2014 and 2015, when Meadows had an average of .322 and .307 in A and A+ ball, respectively. As an example, you can see what Meadows did last season in the following chart from MLBFarm.com.

When Austin Meadows is at his best, he hits for power to right field and has gap-to-gap power to all parts of the field.
When Austin Meadows is at his best, he hits for power to right field and has gap-to-gap power to all parts of the field.

Since his early season slump, Meadows has done exactly what the chart above shows. His spray chart to the outfield is spread much more evenly than earlier this season, and his line drive rate is up to a spectacular 32.5%. More importantly, he has only struck out seven times in his last 59 plate appearances over that span for a K-rate of 11.8% — which is actually much lower than his career norms.

From watching him since his late debut this season from the Spring Training eye injury, Meadows was displaying all of the typical tools that you would expect to see from him; however, there just seemed to be a bit of a disconnect at the plate. The swing didn’t look timid — and neither did the player himself — but something wasn’t connecting quite right.

Last season, Meadows came up for a week of regular season games and a playoff series with the Curve, and he was everything as advertised. It was really easy to be disappointed in his early season struggles this year based off of what he did last, but the residual effects of the eye injury may have been something that went completely unnoticeable to the player himself yet took some time get back used to playing baseball normally. Meadows tried using protective eye wear in the first game of the season, only to lose the glasses the next day because of them fogging up. He is still using the face guard which is attached to his helmet, which may have a slightly different feel to a player at the plate.

Meadows said it was “scary at first trying to get comfortable again at the plate”, but he felt more and more comfortable as time wore on.

“It’s 100% now,” Meadows said when I asked him if there were any lingering effects from the eye injury. “Coming in after some rehab games in Extended Spring Training really helped me with seeing the ball. Now, I feel 100%. It’s really not a problem anymore.”

With having to essentially restart his Spring Training routine after recovering from the injury — and the injury itself — it didn’t come as much of a surprise that Meadows had his early season struggles. Now that it seems that is all behind him, I would fully expect him to continue to show why he was considered one of the top prospects in the game heading into the season, and why he is still that prospect.

Don’t worry Pirates’ fans, the Austin Meadows you’ve followed and cheered for is back. I think the kid is going to be A-OK.

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