Pittsburgh Pirates Top Prospects: Number Two Austin Meadows
The Pittsburgh Pirates minor league season is a couple weeks in. Over the last month or so, Rum Bunter has released the top 20 prospects in the organization. Here is number three.
Over the last few years, the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system has been considered one of the best in baseball. However, after enjoying a period of playoff baseball, and in turn picking lower in the draft, they have seen their system fall toward the middle of the pack. Still, rankings by scouting websites are not everything. They have plenty of intriguing prospects who could break out just as much as a team with a top farm system.
With that being said, we have come up with our top 20 prospects for the 2018 season. The articles will look at each player, starting at 20 and working toward one. So far we have looked at pitchers Clay Holmes at number 20, Gage Hinsz at number 19, Travis MacGregor at 18, and left-handed starter Braeden Ogle at 17. The first hitter to show up on our countdown was Calvin Mitchell at number 16 and Oneil Cruz at number 15. Coming in at number 14 was 2017 draft pick Steven Jennings.
Then was a pair of international prospects in right-hander Luis Escobar at number 13 overall and outfielder Lolo Sanchez at number 12. Right-handed starter and 2010 draftee Nick Kingham came in at number 11. Hard-throwing left-hander Taylor Hearn came in at number 10 and former first-round pick Kevin Newman at number nine. Switch hitting outfielder Bryan Reynolds and left-handed hitting middle infielder Kevin Kramer occupied the eight and seven spots respectively. Number six was third baseman Colin Moran, and number five is a Ke’Bryan Hayes. Cole Tucker continued the trend of infield prospects inside the top 10. The number three is 2017 first round pick Shane Baz. Here is number two.
Number Two Overall
The Pirates drafted Austin Meadows with the ninth overall pick in 2013, using the selection they received for failing to sign Mark Appel the year prior. Since joining the Pirates organization, the left-handed hitting outfielder has had lofty expectations. This is where Baseball America ranked the now 22-year-old before each season:
Meadows has never been ranked below the 50th overall prospect to start the season, but after starting 2016 and 2017 in the top 25, he lost his shine entering the year.
Part of the issue for Meadows has been performance, he has just a .243/.310/.392 slash line, a 8.3 percent walk rate and a 18.4 percent strikeout rate in 494 Triple-A plate appearances entering games Saturday.
He’s still showing bat to ball contact, but the overall production hasn’t been there compared to other levels. Over the course of his minor league career, Meadows has slashed .292/.358/.458, showing better results and power (overall 0.166 ISO compared to a 0.149 ISO in Triple-A).
But it’s not just performance issues in Triple-A that’s been the problem, his inability to stay on the field has been concerning. In 2016, Meadows played just 87 games and he played just 81 games last season.
Fangraphs still rates Meadows as 60 grade future hitter, 55 future run, and overall a 55 future value. That’s a hitter with the ability to hit and run while playing a premium defensive position. Meadows stock may have fallen, but his future is still bright, and his Baseball America rankings are similar to those of Andrew McCutchen‘s.
Meadows has started the season in Triple-A Indianapolis, and he has hit .290/.333/.387 through games played Friday night. He’s showing good contact skills, but his on-base (6.1 percent walk rate) and power (zero home runs and a 0.097 ISO) have been lacking through his first 33 plate appearances. The season is still young and those should turn around as his sample is still small, and the most important thing for Meadows is staying healthy.
Next: Playing Time Is Key For Austin Meadows
Meadows will likely be called up at some point in 2018 as long as he stays healthy and hits similar to his past. He’s the clubs best positional prospects and represents the most likely player to become the next face of the franchise. While his stock has fallen, Meadows still represents a player projected to be an above average regular.
*Numbers from Baseball-Reference