Last year's Indianapolis top ten prospect list was both top-heavy with top prospects in the system and it had depth. This year's list is very similar and we should see some major contributions from this group in Pittsburgh in 2018, as well as some players outside the top ten who should at least see time with the Pirates next year. The difference between last year's group and this year's is the amount of players who have Major League experience already. Nine of the top ten players in 2016 saw time in Pittsburgh in 2017, and for four of them, it was significant time. As you will see below, this year's top ten has four players who haven't made their MLB debut yet, including two of the top three prospects. So you probably won't see the impact help right away from them, but that will make Indianapolis interesting to follow early next year. Here are the reports on the top prospects at the level.
TOP 10 INDIANAPOLIS INDIANS PROSPECTS
The cutoff for eligibility on this list was 140 at-bats, 40 innings pitched, or 20 relief appearances. This excluded Jose Osuna from qualifying, as well as some other players mentioned briefly in the notable section below, although none of them would have been considered for the top ten. Unlike the lower-level lists, this list factors in actual results more than potential and upside. The latter is still factored in, but this is the level where we want to see players producing on the field and showing their tools in games.
1. Austin Meadows, OF - The 2017 season didn't go as planned for Meadows. Before the season started, the questions were concerning where he would fit in once the Super Two deadline passed in early June. Then once Starling Marte was suspended for half of the season, it became more of a matter of just waiting for the deadline to pass to get him to the majors. The problem was that Meadows didn't cooperate with those plans. He started off the first week looking bad after a solid Spring Training performance. His bat looked slow in Indianapolis and he was striking out a lot. That didn't last long, but it stood out because of the time of season. He started hitting the ball better, even if the results didn't show up in the box scores right away. By mid-June, his stats looked much better and it appeared like we could see him in Pittsburgh soon. Then came the first injury, at least the first one from this season. Meadows has dealt with injuries in the past and they were a concern. This year, that concern became a problem.
Meadows missed five weeks with a hamstring strain, which is an injury he has had in the past. Even after he returned, it was cautious, spending a week in the GCL and then another week in Morgantown. His return to Indianapolis lasted just three games before a minor oblique strain put him out for a few days. He played another five games, but the strain returned and he was shutdown for the season. The Pirates originally wanted him to play some winter ball to make up at-bats, and he even signed with the same team that Jung-Ho Kang is playing for, but it appears that those plans have been scrapped. Meadows now has the injury-prone tag, but the 22-year-old still has the skills to be a star in the majors. Even when he was slumping after that bad first week, he was still hitting the ball well at times and using the entire field. He has shown power in his bat and a strong approach at the plate. Meadows was still making a difference during his slump, using his speed on the bases and playing strong defense, while seeing time at all three spots. His lone missing tool is a strong arm, though he makes up for it somewhat with accuracy and a quick release. The 2018 season could look a lot like what we expected from the 2017 season. If Meadows is healthy and avoids the slow start, we will sit around wondering what the Pirates plan to do in early June.
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