With Gregory Polanco in the majors, the top hitting prospect in the system is now outfielder Austin Meadows. We have yet to see Meadows in action this year, due to hamstring problems that have kept him out for the first four months of the season.
A few weeks ago I reported that Meadows had started on-field activities, and was making his way back to where he could play in games. The expectation at the time was that he’d start off by playing a few games in the GCL before going to West Virginia for the final two months of the season. Meadows now looks ready to take the field, as he tweeted out the following this morning.
Blessed to say I get back out on the field Monday! 4 months of hard work and rehab up to this point! I've learned a lot through all of this!
— Austin Meadows (@austin_meadows) June 28, 2014
I haven’t received confirmation, but I’m expecting Meadows to still play in the GCL for a few rehab games, based on everything he’s told me leading up to this, and based on the typical minor league rehab approach for the Pirates. (UPDATE: Confirmed. Meadows tells me that he’ll be in the GCL, and expects to play five innings.) They typically have players play five innings for two games, seven innings for two games, then a full nine inning game for one or two games before returning to active status. That would put Meadows about a week away from West Virginia, starting next Monday.
The final two months should be fun to watch what Meadows can do in Low-A. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if he has to return to the level next year, since he missed so much time this year. A similar situation came with Josh Bell, who missed a lot of the 2012 season with a knee injury. He returned to West Virginia for all of the 2013 season, then moved up to Bradenton this year. Unless Meadows absolutely destroys Low-A pitching, I could see the same development path.