Up front I have to get it out of the way, I hate the Rays for hitting sleepers in shallower mixed leagues. They have five platoons set up already and we’re not even at Spring Training yet. Once we hit March, there’s going to be at least seven possible platoons. Platoons are good for liberty, bad for fantasy baseball, i.e., libertad/libertbad. The trade of Mallex Smith helps the case for Austin Meadows and, specifically, his playing time, i.e., you can’t spell libertad without trade. (I tried too.) In the Rays’ outfield, there’s still Kevin Kiermaier, Tommy Pham, Brandon Lowe, who I want to get playing time, and Guillermo Heredia, who I don’t want to get playing time but will likely because of that reason. Kevin Cash divvies up so much playing time we should call him, Kevin One Of Those Change Belts Teenagers Who Work At Arcades Wear. That’s pretty pithy. Anyway, what can we expect from Austin Meadows for 2019 fantasy baseball and what makes him a sleeper?
Steamer’s projections are usually very conservative, even more so when it comes to rookies. Austin Meadows isn’t exactly a rookie, but he only has 178 at-bats in his career, so he’s not Julio Franco either. In 509 ABs, Steamer gives Meadows the projections of 67/17/66/.264/16. That’s in only 134 games. For most teams, that would be a low number for a guy who is projected as the starter. As mentioned on the aforementioned tip, that might be a lot of games to project for Meadows. Or for the five girl readers, ‘as womentioned on the aforewomentioned tip.’ Meadows is projected for about the same fantasy value as teammate, Tommy Pham. Yo, Meadows, you a flimflam artist or a “watched film on Pham” artist? There’s obviously no way Meadows is getting drafted anywhere near that of Pham. So, that’s major sleeper appeal, if — and this is a Pablo Sandoval-sized if — Meadows can get that many at-bats. Also, do I think Meadows is capable of what Steamer is projecting? Well, thanks for asking. But you should be asking…. Alexa, is Austin Meadows ready for the majors? “In Triple-A with the Rays, he hit 10 homers in 96 at-bats.” Alexa, just give the answer, I didn’t buy you so I can deduce shizz. “Yes.” Yes what, Alexa, give me full sentences, goddamnit. “In 178 ABs in the majors, Austin Meadows hit six homers.” Forget it, Alexa! Meadows also had five steals in the majors and was only caught once. He stole 11 bags in Triple-A with the Pirates, also with only one caught stealing. At 23 years of age, he seems ready to hit for some 15-20 homer power and steal 15-20 bags. We haven’t even mentioned he’s a ‘make contact’ guy. He only swung and missed 7.7% of the time, about the same as Benintendi and Lindor, and swung at pitches outside the zone 28.3% of the time, about the same as Yelich. Also, he made contact on 91% of those pitches outside the zone, about the same as Altuve. So, Meadows knows when to swing and, even when he swings at pitches off the plate, he makes contact. Last year, he had a 20.9% strikeout rate, but I’d say that’s an aberration and he could have a strikeout rate as low as 12% and not above 17%. With his speed, BABIP and Ks, he might not hit below .280, so I think he can beat Steamer’s projections. For 2019, I’ll give Austin Meadows the projections of 76/15/63/.277/18 in 484 ABs with a chance for more, and, that’s not even making the fairly obvious assumption that Kiermaier will be injured for 135 games and Pham will miss at least a month. We’re talking a guy who can beat Pham’s fantasy value at least 125 picks after him. Wham, bam, thank you, faux Pham!