Austin Meadows Should Play Every Day

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

Even with the team’s starting outfielders all now healthy, Austin Meadows should still be playing every day for the Pittsburgh Pirates

On May 18th Austin Meadows made his Major League debut for the Pittsburgh Pirates. During his week in the Majors Meadows has been one of the hottest hitters in the National League. While it is a small sample size, he has earned the right to be playing every day for the Pirates. And playing Meadows every day is something that the team needs to do.

Another factor in this equation is the struggling Gregory Polanco. After a torrid start to the season, Polanco has slumped in recent weeks. This slump includes both his play in the field and at the plate as the inconsistency that has trademarked Polanco’s now five-year Major League career has continued to be a trend.

After going 0-for-3 with a walk and a pair of strikeouts in Saturday’s 4-1 loss against the St. Louis Cardinals, Polanco now owns a .209/.324/.424/.748 slash line, .322 wOBA, 104 wRC+, and a 23.4% strikeout rate this season. While Polanco does lead the team in walks (27) and home runs (8), he has been barely a league average hitter this season – league average wOBA is .320 and wRC+ is 100.

Meanwhile, as for Meadows, he has done nothing but hit since being called up. In 30 plate appearances, he owns a .433/.433/.867/1.300 slash line, .548 wOBA, and a wRC+ of 259. He has already hit three home runs and he has only struck out once.

Another area Polanco has struggled this season is defensively in right field. He owns a -5.5 dWAR and -4 defensive runs saved (DRS) this season. As for Meadows, who has played the more challenging center field, he owns a 0.1 dWAR and a +1 DRS a week into his career.

Dating back to April 13th, Polanco has seemed completely lost at the plate. In 148 plate appearances during this stretch he owns a .197/.304/.339/.643 slash line, a .284 wOBA, a wRC+ of 78, he has just 12 extra base hits, and he’s struck out 23.0% of the time.

Polanco’s woes have not only spilled over into the field, but also into his effort. There have been multiple occasions during his bad stretch where a lack of hustle or effort from Polanco led to fly balls dropping for hits, opposing base runners taking extra bases, and Polanco being thrown out on the bases when he could have been safe.

Right now, Polanco playing every day is only hurting both he and the Pirates.

Starting center fielder Starling Marte was activated from this disabled list. To the Pirates’ credit they kept Meadows in the Major Leagues instead of worrying about Super Two and optioning him back to Triple-A.

However, Meadows did not start on Saturday. With Marte back, Corey Dickerson and Polanco continued to flank him in the outfield. Dickerson starting in left field is no problem. After all, he has been arguably the team’s best player this season and absolutely should be playing every day. But so should Meadows, especially with Polanco struggling.

There is also the matter of Meadows’ development. He is best served playing every day. If he is going to remain in the Major Leagues, then he needs to be playing every day. He would be better served playing every day at Triple-A than being a fourth outfielder in the Big Leagues.

Next: Week in Review: 5/18 - 5/24

At some point Meadows will cool down, that’s just how baseball goes. Even when this happens he may still be one of the team’s three best outfielders. But that’s a discussion for something that may come later. Right now, Meadows is one of the team’s three best outfielders and he should be playing every day.