Ever since he was drafted, Austin Meadows was regarded as a prospect with power that you could dream about. He drew comps to Jay Bruce in the 2013 draft, due to his power potential from a corner outfield spot. In fact, one of the first times I saw Meadows in 2013, he homered with a towering shot over the right field fence at Pirate City. Immediately after the homer, one of the scouts sitting near me made a simple comment to another scout, in a very matter of fact tone: “Jay Bruce.”
The one knock against Meadows in the lower levels has been his struggles against off-speed stuff. He didn’t have too much of an issue with this during his limited time in West Virginia in 2014, although that doesn’t mean he won’t have difficulty with breaking stuff as he moves up. His numbers in West Virginia weren’t bad, but he could definitely see a boost in power over last year. He had a .164 ISO in West Virginia, which isn’t bad, but also isn’t spectacular.
The Pirates are now trying to tap into the power potential of Meadows by having him lower his hands a bit. The switch came during instructs, and was recommended by Minor League Hitting Coordinator Larry Sutton. The goal is to keep Meadows in a stronger and ready position, which will speed up his bat. He is also focused on staying back in his stance more, rather than leaning forward a bit. This allows him to see balls deeper in the zone, which will help him with breaking pitches moving forward.
Meadows missed a lot of time in 2014 due to hamstring issues. It’s unknown whether he will make the jump to Bradenton in 2015 at the start of the season, since those assignments haven’t been given out yet. However, even if he does go back to West Virginia to start the year, it’s not guaranteed that he will stay there all year.
“He’s got a chance to move up,” Pirates’ Minor League Director Larry Broadway said, while noting that a lot of this depends on his conditioning heading into camp.
Here is a comparison of the new hand positioning for Meadows. The first GIF is from a video of Meadows at a Perfect Game event before the 2013 draft. The second GIF is from the video below, which I recorded this week.
Meadows starts at a low position in the old clip, then raises his hands before loading back and swinging. The new swing starts from a slightly lower spot, while also removing the step where he raises his hands. The load to his hands is also more subtle in the new swing. Overall it is much cleaner and much shorter, which should allow him more time to react to a pitch before swinging. You can see more about this change in the quick video below, with Meadows and Broadway talking about the change, along with several views of the new swing from Meadows.