BRADENTON, Fla. – Two weeks ago today, Austin Meadows had surgery to repair a fractured orbital bone. The injury came after getting hit in the right eye with a ball that skipped up off a teammates glove during throwing drills. I talked to Meadows this morning, who is doing well after surgery.
“Everything was according to plan,” Meadows said. “They took care of me up there, and looking forward to getting back into it.”
I first saw Meadows two days after his injury. There was still a bit of swelling around his eye at the time, and bruising underneath the eye. Meadows no longer has any bruising, and said that outside of the first day, everything went fine.
“It was a quick healing process,” Meadows said. “The day after it was pretty swollen, and after that it was on track.”
Meadows has been out on the field the last three days working on conditioning, hitting, throwing, and doing outfield work. There is currently no timetable for his return to games, or for when he will start the season. He’s basically back to the beginning of Spring Training, and needs to get built up to games, and then built up to being ready for the season.
“I’ve been through this before,” Meadows said, referring to being delayed with hamstring problems before. “Just really being patient about it. Just trying to take it day by day. I just know I’ll be out there soon, and that’s all you can worry about.”
My guess is that Meadows will miss the first month of the season, and might return in early May. That’s just based on how long it takes other players to get built up during Spring Training, not to mention the Pirates won’t rush him. This is only speculation though, as Meadows and Pirates’ Director of Minor League Operations Larry Broadway both said there’s no date on when he’ll start to play.
When Meadows does return, he’ll go to Altoona, joining Barrett Barnes and Harold Ramirez in the outfield.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Meadows said of getting to Altoona. “Good group of guys, good coaching staff. [New Altoona Manager] Joey Cora up there as well. I’ve gotten a chance to get to know him a little bit, and it’s been really good so far, even though I haven’t been down here as much. I’m really looking forward to that opportunity.”
Yeudy Garcia and Mitch Keller
Minor league Spring Training can make it very easy to see certain players, or very difficult to see other players. I’ve been over to Pirate City almost every day this month, and there are some pitchers and players I haven’t even seen, outside of bullpens and batting practice. That’s just because they’ve pitched most, or all of their games on the road. Likewise, there are some players where it seems like I see them every day, including starting pitchers. This happens every year, and it’s always fun seeing which guys you get, and which guys you miss.
Fortunately, the guys I saw a lot of were Yeudy Garcia and Mitch Keller, two of the best pitching prospects in the lower levels. I saw them today for maybe the fourth time this spring, and decided to take in one more look at each pitcher before the season starts (I’ll see Keller again when I go to West Virginia in late April, and Garcia plenty this year in Bradenton).
Garcia was 90-94 MPH, but mostly sitting in the 93-94 MPH part of that range. He gave up two runs on two hits in five innings, with two walks and three strikeouts. The innings and pitch count are obviously the most important things at this point in camp. Garcia threw 71 pitches, then finished off in the bullpen, working with a lot of changeups and sliders. The latter pitch has looked good this year, showing a lot of improvement from this time last year. It’s an above-average offering, and there’s still more room for improvement with more consistent movement and command.
Keller was in the 90-96 MPH range, sitting mostly 92-93. The 96 MPH mark is up from last year, and he’s hit that in each of his last few outings. That’s impressive for a kid that turns 20 next week, especially when it comes with such an easy delivery. He’s got a nice curveball which he can use as a strikeout pitch, in the 75-79 MPH range. It’s above average right now, with a chance to trend up in the future.
His changeup needs some work. He was 88-90 MPH today, so not much separation from the fastball. He also had poor control with the pitch, and didn’t have good, consistent movement. This is the part where I say that most pitchers out of high school who have good velocity and a good breaking pitch don’t need a changeup. Keller has worked to get a grip he’s comfortable with since joining the Pirates, and is now working to improve the pitch. That will be a big focus for him this year in West Virginia.
**Adrian Grullon was a guy I really liked in 2013 in the GCL. He’s a 6′ 7″ pitcher who was hitting an easy 93 MPH at a young age, although he went down with Tommy John surgery and missed the last two years. He’s back now, working as a reliever, and was 91-93 MPH with good downward movement on his pitches today. Grullon will be on a delayed schedule to start his year, due to missing two seasons. He’s got some command problems, which hurt him today a bit after getting two quick outs. But the stuff is good, and hopefully the two years off haven’t totally derailed his chances of doing something in the minors.
**Seth McGarry was drafted in the eighth round last year, and profiled as a reliever in the long-term. The Pirates had him starting, which is their typical approach for their best arms. However, he will move to the bullpen this year in West Virginia, pitching strictly in a relief role where he goes one or two innings each time out. They’re making that switch early, because McGarry is more comfortable with the reliever role. He’s also built more like a reliever, with a smaller frame than someone like John Kuchno, who started for a few seasons before moving to the bullpen. Today, McGarry went two innings, featuring a 90-93 MPH fastball with some late movement, and an upper 70’s curveball that looks like it could be a strikeout pitch. While he will start in West Virginia, there’s a chance he could move up to Bradenton, and possibly even finish the year in Altoona if his season goes well enough.
**One of the position players I focused on today was Casey Hughston. He’s an outfielder who has a big frame and a lot of speed, along with plenty of raw power. The biggest problem is that he doesn’t do well hitting balls on the outer half of the plate. He crushes inside pitches with pull power, but needs to speed up his bat and do a better job on outside pitches. Today he struck out twice, both on the outside. One was on a high fastball where he was late, and the other was a low and away curveball that he couldn’t get to. Hughston has a lot of upside if he can fix this problem, but that’s the big area of weakness for now.
**I’m really looking forward to seeing what Tito Polo can do in his next run through West Virginia. He had a few minor injuries last year, and didn’t have the best season. However, there are plenty of tools to work with here, with the biggest one being his speed. His speed can make an impact in games, and plays well in the outfield. He’s also a good hitter, capable of taking the ball consistently to the opposite field, and showing off some line drive power. We had him as a breakout guy last year, and that hasn’t gone away this time around.