AUSTIN MEADOWS, CENTER FIELDER
|Born: May 3, 1995
Drafted: 1st Round, 9th Overall, 2013
How Acquired: Draft
High School: Grayson HS, Loganville, GA
Agent: Excel Sports Management
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|The Pirates selected Meadows with the ninth pick, which they had as a result of their inability to sign Mark Appel in 2012. He’s an athletic center fielder who has a chance to stay at the position. He runs well now, but given his size may lose some speed later. His arm is around average, but probably good enough for him to play right. His bat is highly regarded and considered a relatively safe bet. There are some questions whether his swing will create the kind of loft necessary for corner outfield power, but he has above-average power potential. Baseball America rated him the fifth best player in the draft, the second closest to the majors among prep players. BA also rated his strike zone judgment the best among prep players. He had a commitment to Clemson, but was not expected to be exceptionally difficult to sign. He agreed to terms about three weeks after the draft for the full slot amount.
Meadows got off to a slow start in the GCL, getting just six hits in his first 39 ABs, but after that he batted .339 with good power in rookie ball, then hit very well in a late-season promotion to Jamestown. He added another HR in the playoffs. Meadows hammered RHPs for a 1.040 OPS and hit 261/306/478, with three HRs, against LHPs. Baseball America rated him the best prospect in the GCL.
Meadows’ 2014 season took a long time to get underway. He suffered a hamstring injury in camp and, in the end, it kept him out until the end of June. After rehabbing in the GCL and at Bristol, he took over center field in West Virginia in mid-July. Meadows continued hitting pretty much as he had the previous year. He had trouble with LHPs, posting just a .466 against them, compared to 1.065 against RHPs, but the sample size was small.
The Pirates moved Meadows up to Bradenton, where he stayed healthy and spent the year playing center. Despite being young for the league — he didn’t turn 20 until a month into the season — he hit well from beginning to end except for a slump in June. Although he doesn’t appear to have hit for a lot of power, his slugging average put him 5th among qualifiers and 16th among all hitters with 137+ ABs. The Pirates batted him leadoff or second while he was with Bradenton, which may have been their way of trying to get him focused on making contact and using the whole field. He had only a small platoon split, with an OPS against RHPs of .795 and against LHPs of .740. The Pirates moved Meadows up to Altoona for the season’s last week and he obviously hit the ground running there, including a game-tying, 9th inning HR in the Curve’s playoff opener.
The start of Meadows season was delayed when he was struck in the face by a thrown ball during spring training and suffered an orbital bone fracture. He joined Altoona in late April and started off slowly, going 8-for-54 (.148) in his first 14 games. After that, he got blistering hot, in particular going a long ways to answering any questions about his power. In his final 31 AA games, he hit 389/438/814. In mid-June, the Pirates promoted Meadows to Indianapolis. He again started off slowly, with a 4-for-29 stretch, then went 7-for-17, and then injured a hamstring, which cost him another month. After he returned, he continued to hit for power but not average. Of his 27 hits in AAA, 16 went for extra bases (in fact, on the entire season he had 48 XBHs and 34 singles), but an extraordinarily low number of his groundballs went for hits, resulting in a very low BABIP of .236. He did strike out at a 23.4% rate, which was roughly six percentage points above his career norm. On the season, he had a mild platoon split, posting an .883 OPS against RHPs and .827 against LHPs. Meadows did a good job as a base stealer. He played mostly center, but saw some time in left at both stops. Baseball America rated him the #3 prospect in the Eastern League and, despite the low average, the #7 prospect in a loaded International League.
Meadows had a rough year. He started the season in AAA and slumped badly in April, batting just 195/247/256. He bounced back in May, hitting 300/358/445, but slumped again in June. Three weeks into the month, he suffered yet another hamstring injury. That kept him out until the end of July. He went through a cautious rehab and returned to Indianapolis in mid-August, only to go out again after three games with oblique tightness. He returned after five days and played five more games, only to go out again for the season after aggravating the oblique. When he was able to play, Meadows struggled against LHPs, posting just a .621 OPS against them. He had an OPS of .758 against RHPs. He played mostly center, but spent some time in left and right.
Meadows presents more questions than answers right now, with both the health problems and the weak performance in AAA. He did mostly seem to be coming around after April; he had an .826 OPS in the eight games he was able to play in August, for one thing. He was added to the 40-man roster in the fall. He still won’t turn 23 until a month into the 2018 season, so there’s hardly reason to give up on him, but the Pirates no doubt will want to see him get more time in AAA, hopefully healthy time. There’s also no obvious spot for him in Pittsburgh, as the Pirates have settled for now on an outfield of Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco and Corey Dickerson.
|2018: Major league minimum
|Signing Bonus: $3,029,600
MiLB Debut: 2013
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2023
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 11/20/2017
Options Remaining: 2 (USED: 2018)
MLB Service Time: 0.000
|June 6, 2013: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1st round, 9th overall pick; signed on June 27.
November 20, 2017: Contract purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates.