Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Top Prospects: #4 – Austin Meadows

The Pirates Prospects 2014 Prospect Guide is now on sale. The book features prospect reports on everyone in the system, the 2014 top 50 prospects, and the most comprehensive coverage of the Pirates’ farm system that you can find.  While the top 50 prospects are exclusive to the book, we will be releasing the top 20 prospects over the next few weeks.  Be sure to purchase your copy of the book on the products page of the site.

To recap the countdown so far:

20. Michael De La Cruz, OF
19. JaCoby Jones, OF
18. Barrett Barnes, OF
17. Cody Dickson, LHP
16. Blake Taylor, LHP
15. Joely Rodriguez, LHP
14. Andrew Lambo, OF
13. Stolmy Pimentel, RHP
12. Clay Holmes, RHP
11. Tony Sanchez, C
10. Harold Ramirez, OF
9. Luis Heredia, RHP
8. Josh Bell, OF
7. Reese McGuire, C
6. Nick Kingham, RHP
5. Alen Hanson, SS

We continue the countdown with the number 4 prospect, Austin Meadows.

Austin Meadows showed some impressive power in his pro debut.

Austin Meadows showed some impressive power in his pro debut.

4. Austin Meadows, OF

The Pirates failed to sign first round pick Mark Appel in the 2012 draft, giving them a compensation pick in 2013. They used that pick to take top prep hitter Austin Meadows, who was drawing Jay Bruce comparisons on draft day due to his power potential. Meadows signed quickly after graduating from high school, and it didn’t take long for him to give a glimpse of his potential in the lower levels.

The outfielder started his career in the GCL, which is one of the most pitcher friendly leagues in the minors. Despite the advantage for pitchers, Meadows crushed at the level, displaying some impressive power in the process that had scouts repeating the Jay Bruce comparisons. By the end of the season, Meadows was promoted to Jamestown, where he recorded a hit in all eight of his games, along with three home runs when including the playoffs.

Meadows has a smooth and easy swing, hits for average, and projects for above average power in the majors one day. He’s got the range for center field, but has a fringy arm which projects him to move off the position in the future. That won’t be a problem for the Pirates, since they are loaded with talented center fielders.

The one downside to Meadows’ debut in 2013 was that he struggled with his strike zone discipline, especially against tough breaking pitches. The reports on his plate patience were good coming out of the draft, so it’s possible that this was just an issue where Meadows was getting used to pitching that he didn’t see often in high school. If the recognition issues continue against breaking pitches, that could make it hard for Meadows to continue to hit for average in the upper levels.

The Pirates usually send top prep hitters like Meadows to West Virginia during their first full season, and he should be no exception. Most prep players in the Pirates system spend a full season in West Virginia, so expect Meadows to remain at the level during the entire 2014 season. If all goes well, he could split between Bradenton/Altoona in 2015, and Indianapolis/Pittsburgh in 2016, making the majors at the young age of 21. If Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and Gregory Polanco are playing well, then the Pirates could slow Meadows’ development, holding him back as an eventual replacement if McCutchen leaves via free agency.

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Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 leefoo

    Tim,,,,,,Any comments on the MLBTV guys (Hart, Mayo and Callis) on Sunday saying they aren’t impressed with his bat speed?

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com/author/admin Tim Williams

      I think that’s a general comment for guys who have long swings. Doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a problem. You don’t need Andrew McCutchen’s quick swing to be a successful hitter, or to hit with power.

    • Kevin_Young

      Also, it’s not as if bat speed doesn’t improve with added strength, so I personally am not too concerned.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 leefoo

      Tim….BT!!!

  • Paul J Books

    I remember when Jay Bruce came up, I said to myself, “gee whiz, why can’t the Pirates have a Jay Bruce?” One talented guy, and it’s nice to have a comparable now in tow.

    • http://atung.net/ Steve Zielinski

      They took Andrew McCutchen instead!

  • deacs

    I also remember the first time I heard Tim mention the Bruce comparison and someone responded with “So…….you’re saying he can’t hit lefties?” Wow. If Meadows turns out to be Jay Bruce I’m doing backflips.

    Also Tim you need to knock off that talk of Meadows replacing Cutch one day. It’s long been my dream of trading star prospects who are being blocked for other star prospects. (Not unlike the Volquez for Hamilton deal ironically) Meadows is going to make this dream come true. I’m hoping Cutch signs another team friendly extension for 15 a year or something and the Pirates actually fork out the cash. Lots of variables in this scenario obviously.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com/author/admin Tim Williams

      That’s why I hate comparisons. People take them to extremes. The Bruce comparison is supposed to reflect his power, but people look at it as Meadows literally having every aspect of Jay Bruce.

      As for Cutch, unless he signs a team friendly extension, it makes sense to let him walk. Even if he signs a team friendly extension, which would you want?

      1. Cutch at ages 31-36, making $15 M a year
      2. Meadows at ages 24-30, making the league minimum and arbitration.

      • https://profiles.google.com/107301053182538404633 Keith Hadley

        Methinks $15 million wouldn’t come close to doing it for Cutch at age 31 in full-on free agency. More like $20+ million/year?

      • dr dng

        Looks like another good reason to visit the toastman this summer!!!

        Do we know if the toastman himself follows this site?

      • deacs

        You’re just not going to back down on this one are you Tim. So let’s say he blows through the minors and is ready by June 2016. Then what? Could we at least trade Ramirez if he progresses one day?

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com/author/admin Tim Williams

          Why is your dream to trade a blocked prospect for another blocked prospect? Why isn’t your dream to have all positions filled, and young replacements ready to take over for the veterans at a lot of positions?

          • deacs

            In my dream scenario Meadows gets traded to fill another hole. So instead of Meadows taking over for Cutch, we trade Meadows for a guy just like him that can play 3rd for example when Pedro’s gone. I realize that 2018 will probably be Cutch’s last year here and if these prospects perform the way we want them to we probably will have to replace them with other prospects because we won’t be able to sign all of them. Just a thought.

            • jaygray007

              A lot can happen in 4 years. Perhaps a “Dumb, but not insane” deadline deal, perhaps Starling Marte or Gregory Polanco fall off a cliff (well… i originally meant this figuratively… as in “start to suck”… but the literal translation works too…).

              and in that “dream scenario,” they could also let Cutch walk and sign a star 3b for 5 years and let Meadows, Bell, Marte, Bell, etc duke it out in the OF. That’s safer than a prospect-for-prospect deal. too much of a chance of one team getting destroyed in a deal like that.

              not even the prospect for prospect deal that made the most sense ever — oscar taveras for jurickson profar — happened and probably wasn’t even discussed.

              Regardless… This OF prospect depth is not a bad thing. it is a very very very very very very good thing. They’ll sort it out.

          • cabbo80

            Great comment. Not sure why that mentality is not more widely used.

      • https://profiles.google.com/113712883335661247632 unfurious

        Regarding Cutch, do you let him walk or trade him with a year or two left on his contract? Assuming the OF depth in the minors continues to develop, doesn’t it make sense to sell high as soon as Meadows is ready? One of my big concerns there would be that it would set a bad precedent that would adversely affect negotiations with players considering signing a team-friendly contract.

  • emjayinTN

    I think that the Austin Meadows/Reese McGuire-led Draft of 2013 will be one of the best ever for the Pirates. Every aspect of the game improved with the position players taken, and the number of pitchers who came in – both RHSP’s, LHSP’s, and future RP’s and almost every one of them had excellent starts at the various lower levels in 2013. The Playoff Pirates needed that going into years where they will be picking much later in the draft due to becoming one of the Top 10 teams in MLB.

    IMO, Meadows had an awesome start in his first exposure to professional baseball straight out of college – oh, I am sorry, he did not spend 3 years in college and is not 21 – he had those excellent numbers in the GCL as an 18 year old straight out of high school, and his W/K Ratio got much better when he moved up to Short-Season. Truth is that Meadows will not turn 19 until well after Spring Training ends.