Last night’s debut from Austin Meadows was a good one. The number two prospect in the system went 2-for-4 with his first stolen base in the majors. He also came close to two home runs that were held in the park due to strong wind, with one of those fly outs easily being a home run to deep center if there’s little to no wind.
The question that will be brought up now is what will the Pirates do with Meadows when Starling Marte returns? One game won’t make that decision, but what happens if Meadows gets off to a hot start in his pro career?
Let’s say he hits something like .367/.415/.449 in his first ten games, and even manages to hit one ball over the fence if wind allows for it. What do the Pirates do in the outfield if Marte is set to return at that point?
Or what if he’s up for half a month or more, and has an average around .300 and an OPS over .900 during that stretch, with a few home runs in the process? Do you keep him up at that point?
And in case you’re wondering, both of the above stat lines belonged to Gregory Polanco.
The first stat line was from Polanco’s first ten games in the majors. He came up, lit the world on fire, and looked like a future star. The league adjusted to him, and it took Polanco some time to adjust back. He hasn’t been a star yet, but has had some flashes of it here and there, mixed in with inconsistent play.
This doesn’t mean Meadows will see similar results if he also gets off to a hot start. He may avoid an adjustment from the league for a longer period. It might never come — although I have a feeling his numbers in Triple-A this year so far show that an adjustment is going to come eventually.
What this does show is that you can’t project things out based on such a small sample size. Meadows will probably only be up for a short amount of time with Marte not expected to be down long.
But what if Marte needs more than ten days, and Meadows keeps hitting like that half a month stat line?
That one is also Polanco’s stat line, and it’s what he has put up so far in the month of May.
Polanco went through a rough stretch in April, but has turned things around this month. I don’t think anyone would consider benching Marte or Corey Dickerson in favor of Meadows, no matter how hot of a start Meadows has. The one suggestion I’ve seen has been Polanco, based on his season totals that include that April stretch. But with Polanco hitting, it wouldn’t be wise to bench him either in favor of a rookie with limited experience.
It also wouldn’t be wise for Meadows to remain up and play off the bench, or for him to rotate with the other productive outfielders. I should note here that the Pirates have the fourth best outfield in the majors by WAR, and third best this month heading into last night’s game.
This whole year for Meadows was expected to be a transition year. He would get adjusted in Triple-A, come up in cases like this one if there was an injury or if there was a long-term slump, and perhaps he would be up enough and show enough that he would give the Pirates a difficult decision to make with Corey Dickerson in the upcoming offseason.
That should be the plan going forward. Hope that Meadows does well, then send him back down when Marte returns, with the knowledge that you have some good depth in the minors for an outfield that is already performing. If we get to a point where a player has a prolonged slump, or Meadows has an extended sample of success in the majors, then it might be time to make a difficult decision, or make the decision to keep Meadows up and work him into the lineup more often.
For now, I’m enjoying his first experience and the start of that transition to the majors.
As a side note, because I know it’s a topic that has been brought up a lot, and because it has been a long time since we’ve had a good Super Two debate (just kidding, there are no good Super Two debates), if Meadows stayed up for good, he would finish the year with 136 days of service time, which would likely put him on pace for Super Two following the 2020 season.
The Pirates called him up without Super Two as a consideration just because his callup is short-term, and he’s expected to return to Triple-A when Marte returns. With a productive outfield, and with Meadows still needing to adjust long-term to the upper levels, it’s difficult to make a case that he needs to be in the majors right now.
The Pirates have called up top prospects usually with less than 120 days remaining in their first season. Meadows would have to be down for about half a month or a little more than that in order to be clear of any Super Two concerns. Again, considering the production from the outfield, and the numbers from Meadows in Triple-A so far, I don’t think there will be a strong argument as to why he should be up.
It might be different if there was a gaping hole in the outfield, or if Meadows had nothing more to learn in the minors. But neither is the case, and Meadows will benefit long-term from getting development right now, rather than providing a small upgrade over the current bench options.
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 3-2 to the San Diego Padres on Friday night. They will send Nick Kingham to the mound for his third start today. He gave up four runs over 5.1 innings against the Milwaukee Brewers in his last start on May 4th. The Padres scheduled starter is left-hander Clayton Richard, who gave up two runs over eight innings against the St Louis Cardinals in his last start. He has a 5.20 ERA in 53.2 innings over nine starts this season, with 50 strikeouts and a 1.45 WHIP.
The minor league schedule includes Altoona starter Brandon Waddell making his eighth appearance. He pitched in relief of Nick Kingham last time out and allowed two runs over three innings. In his previous three starts, he limited the opposition to one run each time. Bradenton starter Eduardo Vera allowed four runs in his last game, yet he still put up at least six innings for the seven straight game. Max Kranick is joining West Virginia today and he’s supposed to pitch. The scheduled starter is listed as Gavin Wallace and it’s possible that both of them throw today because Kranick didn’t throw more than four innings in Extended Spring Training, so he will be limited until he can get stretched out. Austin Coley was listed for Indianapolis today, before he pitched last night, so we will see who takes his turn.
MLB: Pittsburgh (26-18) vs Padres (18-28) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Nick Kingham (2.92 ERA, 16:1 SO/BB, 12.1 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (20-18) @ Durham (25-14) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)
AA: Altoona (19-18) vs Portland (15-24) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Brandon Waddell (1.90 ERA, 33:11 SO/BB, 42.2 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (22-19) @ Palm Beach (24-16) 5:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Eduardo Vera (2.88 ERA, 27:10 SO/BB, 50.0 IP)
Low-A: West Virginia (23-15) vs Lexington (19-19) 6:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Max Kranick (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)
From Thursday, a pair of doubles. First one is from Austin Meadows, his tenth of the season, which was almost his second home run.
Next is from Bligh Madris, his third double of the season.
5/18: Travis MacGregor and Joel Cesar placed on disabled list. Max Kranick added to West Virginia roster.
5/18: Pirates recall Austin Meadows. Starling Marte placed on the disabled list.
5/17: JT Brubaker placed on temporary inactive list. Jackson Williams added to Indianapolis.
5/14: Jin-De Jhang assigned to Altoona. Jackson Williams assigned to Morgantown.
5/14: Josh Harrison assigned to Altoona on rehab.
5/12: Joe Musgrove assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.
5/10: JT Brubaker promoted to Indianapolis. Nick Kingham assigned to Altoona
5/10: Sergio Cubilete activated from disabled list. Jacob Taylor placed on West Virginia disabled list.
5/9: Brett McKinney placed on the Indianapolis disabled list
5/8: Pirates recall Jose Osuna
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Two former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus a look at a very bad day for the city of Pittsburgh. The players born on this date include pitcher Ed Whitson and pitcher Bud Culloton. Both of them played for a Pirates team that won the World Series. Whitson played with the club from 1977 until he was traded away during the 1979 season, while Culloton played for the 1925 WS champs. You can read more about each of them in the link above.
On this date in 1890, the Pirates (then called the Alleghenys) lost 18-2, while the Pittsburgh Burghers lost 16-3 that same day. The Burghers were a member of the Player’s League, a Major League which existed for just the 1890 season. Many of the players from that team, were members of the Alleghenys team before and after 1890. The Alleghenys/Pirates were 8-10 before that game and went 15-103 the rest of the way. It was the worst season in franchise history.