Austin Meadows

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Austin Wade Meadows

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Biographical Information[edit]

Outfielder Austin Meadows was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates and scout Jerry Jordan in the first round of the 2013 amateur draft with the ninth overall pick. Despite a commitment to Clemson University, he signed for a bonus of more than $3 million and made his pro debut with the GCL Pirates on July 9th, going 0-for-5 but scoring 2 runs against the GCL Yankees. He also played for the Jamestown Jammers of the New York-Penn League that first season and hit a combined .316/.424/.554 in 48 games, with 11 doubles, 5 triples and 7 homers.

Given his high draft status and excellent maiden season, Pirates fans expected to make it to Pittsburgh in short order, but his minor league apprenticeship ended up taking more time than expected. An injury limited him to 45 game sin 2014, but he continued to hit very well, as his batting line was .317/.394/.488, mainly with the West Virginia Power of the South Atlantic League. In 2015, he had another solid season with the Bradenton Marauders of the Florida State League, where he hit .307/.357/.407 in 121 games. The Pirates rewarded him by giving him a late-season look in AA with the Altoona Curve and he responded by hitting .360 with 5 extra-base hits in 6 games. His 2016 season was curtailed by an injury again, however, but he hit well for Altoona, at .311/.365/.611 in 45 games. That outstanding slugging percentage was the result of 16 doubles, 8 triples and 6 homers in just 167 at-bats. He was promoted to AAA for the first time, lining up with the Indianapolis Indians, but hit just .214 in 37 games there, although he continued to hit for a lot of power, with 16 long hits, 7 of them homers. He should normally have been in line for a September call-up, but it didn't happen.

Austin started off the 2017 season with Indianapolis and in 72 games hit .250 with 4 homers and 36 RBIs. He again missed some time due to an injury and made a couple of stints on rehabilitation assignments in the lower minors. The injuries that slowed his progression were oblique and hamstring strains, not issues that created longer-term concerns, but they were obviously frustrating for Meadows. So, his debut was again pushed back. In 2018, he was again at Indianapolis when the season opened. After 32 games, he was hitting .294, although without having really shown the very impressive power he had displayed in previous years, as he had 10 doubles, no triples and just one homer at that point. Still, on May 17th, the Pirates announced he would be called up to the Show the next day, following an injury to CF Starling Marte. In his debut on May 18th, he recorded his first two hits and also had a stolen base in a 3-2 loss to the San Diego Padres. He started the game in center field and hit 7th. He added his first homer two days later, off Jordan Lyles. The plan was originally for him to go down when Marte came off the 10-day DL, but he was playing so well, they sent down Jose Osuna instead and rotated Meadows into the outfield mix with Marte, Corey Dickerson and Gregory Polanco. Even though he was only present for half the month, he was named the National League Rookie of the Month for May, on the strength of a .409 average, 4 homers, 9 runs and 7 RBIs in 13 games. The Elias Sports Bureau reported that he was only the 5th rookie since 1961 to hit 4+ homers and .400+ in his first 40 at-bats, alongside Albert Pujols, Jeff Francoeur, Brian Giles and Yasiel Puig. After 49 games, he was hitting .292 with 5 homers and 13 RBIs when on July 31st he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays along with P Tyler Glasnow and a player to be named later in return for P Chris Archer. He only played 10 games for Tampa, hitting .250, being called up in late September after spending six weeks with the Durham Bulls in AAA. He finished at .287 in 59 games, with 6 homers and 17 RBIs.

In 2019, he earned a starting spot in right field with the Rays in spring training and began the season by hitting .351 in 21 games in April. He followed that by hitting .356 in May, and even though he slumped in June, it was enough to earn him his first berth on the All-Star team. He continued to produce in the second half and was at his best in September when he hit .378 with 9 homers and 20 RBIs in 24 games to be named the American League Player of the Month. He finished the season with a .291 average, 29 doubles, 33 homers, 83 runs and 89 RBIs in 138 games to help the Rays qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2013. He went 0 for 3 with a walk as Tampa Bay defeated the Oakland Athletics in the Wild Card Game, and then 3 for 20 with a pair of doubles as the Rays extended the heavily-favored Houston Astros to the limit in the Division Series.

Just when the Rays were popular picks to take advantage of the abbreviated season caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, he was placed on the injured list on July 16, 2020 after testing positive for the virus. He had already missed the previous 13 days of summer camp after attending the first day of workouts. He made his debut on August 4th and ended up playing 36 of the Rays' 60 games, hitting .205 with an .296 OBP, 4 homers and 13 RBIs. His OPS+ fell to 87. But the Rays had plenty of other weapons and had the best record in the American League that season, then made it all the way to the World Series. He did not appear in the Wild card Series, and batted below .200 in the three next rounds although he did hit a pair of homers in the Division Series against the New York Yankees. In the World Series loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, he went just 3 for 16, without a walk and all three hits being singles.

Austin bounced back to some extent in 2021 after that disappointing season. He played a career-high 142 games and while he batted just .234, he did enough other things to raise his OPS+ to a solid 117. He hit 29 doubles and 27 homers, drove in a team-high 106 runs, while his 79 runs scored were third on the Rays, who won 100 games. He split his time between left field and designated hitter. But for the second straight year, his postseason numbers were a disappointment: he played just 3 of the 5 games in the Division Series, and went 2 for 9, although both hits went for extra bases (a double and a homer). He scored one run and drive in three as the Rays were upset by the Boston Red Sox. By spring training in 2022, his stock had fallen significantly on the Rays, who had what was considered to be the strongest farm system in the majors, with a lot of youngsters biding for playing time. On April 4th, the Rays decided to cash in on his remaining value by trading him to the Detroit Tigers in return for infielder Isaac Paredes and a Competitive Round B pick in the 2022 amateur draft. The Tigers had an immediate need for an outfielder following a right foot fracture to top prospect Riley Greene, who had just won a startng job in the outfield.

Austin's younger brother, Parker Meadows, was selected by the Detroit Tigers with the first pick of the second round (#44 overall) in the 2018 amateur draft.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • AL All-Star (2019)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 2 (2019 & 2021)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 1 (2019)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 1 (2021)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Adam Berry: "Pirates set to recall outfield prospect Meadows", mlb.com, May 17, 2018. [1]
  • Adam Berry: "5 reasons the Rays dealt Meadows, recalled Lowe", mlb.com, April 5, 2022. [2]
  • Evan Petzold: "Detroit Tigers add Austin Meadows in trade with Rays, boost outfield power", Detroit Free Press, April 4, 2022. [3]

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