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.

Austin Meadows old swing

Austin Meadows new swing

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.

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  1. I looked at his stat projections and said “Jay Bruce” without ever seeing video. Before, this change, he still projected a peak of low to mid 20’s HRs (per 600 PA) in MLB

  2. Those GIF’s are great. You can really see his lowered hand position and his hips staying back in the second one. Good stuff.

  3. Hopefully AM is the Pirates league MVP in the making to take over when the current MVP leaves. Still think Polanco will be the best hitter out of anyone in the organization right now.

  4. Great presentation, love the comparison.

    I mentioned in an earlier post that Pedro Alvarez looks to be doing something similar with the hands this spring, but I can’t seem to find any video from the angle you did the GIF’s of Meadows. Any chance you would think about working a similar comparison into a future notes article?

    Reese McGuire also seems like a guy that could benefit from this move. I’ve read many scout/analyst types question how much power can even be generated by a guy with his swing plane, and he starts with his hands high.

    • NMR: The adjustment seems very slight in level of the hands, but his hands are much quieter and eliminated the slight bounce he had in his pre-swing. Have not seen similar video of Reese McGuire, but he will always be more of a contact hitter and he has hit very well through Rookie and Lo A. We will expect power from Meadows, but not so much from McGuire.

      • Thanks for the comment, emjay.

        I’ll never cease to be amazed at how relatively slight of an adjustment can make an enormous difference in this game. One of the beautiful things about baseball.

        I will have to disagree with you on McGuire. He *is* a contact hitter, which is the first and most important step in producing power. And he most certainly does have to add some, as evidenced by his *poor* performance at the plate in A ball thus far. Kid is strong, athletic, and seems to have feel for contact. I’m certainly not suggesting he go all Jose Bautista, but I see no reason not to gear his swing toward a bit more power.

  5. This kid seems awesome. If the Pirates take their foot off the break, I can envision him forcing his way onto the team to start the 2017 season….and necessitating one of the most controversial trades in Pirates history.

    • I’m sure the Pirates would love to be put in the position of having the best OF in baseball and having the top OF prospect, too. That’s what I call a rich man’s problem.

    • I think Tim makes a good point about adjusting to off-speed stuff…but…if that doesn’t prove to be a huge challenge, I could definitely see him on a fast track.

      Physically mature, advanced swing and approach, and destined for a corner OF spot. This is the recipe for a guy to move fast.

  6. Boy, I can’t help but look at this kids swing and see an almost mirror images to the same swing plane, hand position, and load from a young Barry Bonds minus the waggle. If he can barrel balls up like Bonds; well that’s another story all together.

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