So cryptic! But to be fair, with cell coverage the way it is nowadays, you technically should be never lost unless you like driving broken-down El Caminos out in the Ozarks, but look, I’m just assuming you’d stay where there are paved roads. Shout out to my homies in Cleveland who don’t have that technology yet. But beyond my clap-backing the Midwest and using a nature-driven pun, I only have one place to go and that’s up… unlike the balls that Austin Meadows hit. Ouch. Sorry, bro. But it’s true, as I finally arrive at some sort of premise, one has to wonder what’s up with this particular Meadow, or I guess technically it’s Meadows because I guess the dude has two-plus pieces of grassland as his last name. But after hitting 27 homeruns in 2021 and 33 homeruns in the year before Covid (simpler times!) he now has zero in 36 games so far while currently on the Covid (complicated times!) injured list. And while I’d rather spend time in your mother’s Meadow(s), I’m here to make that sacrifice and spend time with your Meadow(s). Hot.
Despite being a former first-round selection (2013), as he was nearing his first taste of the Major Leagues, not much was really known about Meadows’ ultimate ceiling. A hamstring injury cost most of his 2014 season and he wouldn’t arrive at High-A ball until he was at the age of 20, but his physicality and pedigree still gave scouts and analysts a lot to hope for. A tall frame at 200 pounds and 6’3″, one could expect some power. While his bat speed wasn’t considered top-tier, Meadows was known to have a quick and short stroke that compensated. At the end of the day and despite a long and winding road of development, he was considered a fair shot to hit at the major league level with some pop and strong plate discipline, and his defense was projected as someone who wasn’t special in the field but was solid enough. So essentially the TL;DR take was that he would be a solid-if-not-spectacular hitter with solid defense.
Fast forward from 2018 to 2022 and what we have from his career so far is just that. Crazy, I know! Taken as a whole, we have a hitter who has provided a .259/334/.475 triple slash, averaging roughly 20+ homeruns a year. While he has shown a sprinkle of speed, most if not all of his value lies in the 30ish homeruns he’s provided in his two previous seasons not counting 2020, and he’s done so with a solid BB% and K%.
Now one thing I haven’t quite mentioned yet is that Meadows is more of a platoon hitter at this point with notable differences in how he hits lefties from righty’s (91 vs. 133 wRC+). He’s also already missed 19 games from vertigo back in May through June in addition to the recent Covid-19 diagnosis, so there have been some factors holding him back. That being said, none of these things should really affect his ratios… counting stats? Sure, but looking through the numbers seems to muddy the waters even more. Sorry if you were going to drink said water.
So first the good. With the caveat that Meadows only has 147 PA’s so far, his BB% and K% remain strong. In fact, his K% has been cut in half from last year, going from 20.6% down to 11.6%. Surely this will change, but it’s not every day you see a hitter flaunt a solid OBP (.347) higher than their slugging (.328). Probably downright impressive if he’s not on your team. And while his BABIP has stayed in line with his career numbers, it sits at about 40 points higher than last season. But the thing is, all of this weirdness just looks like statistical noise to me right now.
If you take a look at his Statcast numbers, his EV (exit velocity), maxEV and HardHit% are all near career norms. True, his LA (launch angle) and HardHit% are both down but again, this could be all from sampling. And yes, while ultimately some of his counting stats will be hard-capped due to his time missed and the fact that the Tigers offense is really offensive (not in the way that’s good), I can’t clearly state that Meadows is a type of juice worth the squeeze. Why we went with juice is anyone’s guess, but I still like Meadows for what he can bring to the table, and I’m pretty sure there will be a correction sooner rather than later.
Keep in mind that the Tigers offense can’t be this bad forever. I mean, they can, but I wouldn’t expect it to remain historically terrible, there is some talent on that roster. There’s also Meadows’s solid plate discipline to keep in mind. Players are more apt to snap out of their struggles when they have an idea about the strike zone, what it does, and what it’s there for. A concept that even escapes some umpires…
So at the end of the day, Meadows will be who he always was, a solid hitter with some pop, nothing more, nothing less. While the season hasn’t started off the way it should have for him, the metrics still support the same player he ever us, the real question is when that player will show up. Probably not tomorrow, because, you know, the Corona, but soon? Sure, why not. I mean, what’s that saying about meadows? Yeah, you’re right, there is no saying, but there should be if only to give me something to end this post with. Well, actually that counts. The end woooo!
Jay is a longtime Razzball everything who consumes an egregious amount of Makers Mark as a vehicle to gain wisdom and augment his natural glow. Living in the D.C. area, he also likes spending time visiting the local parks and feeding lettuce to any turtles he encounters, including Mitch McConnell. You can follow him on Twitter @jaywrong.