Outfield depth in the minors softens the blow of losing Austin Meadows

Outfield depth in the minors softens the blow of losing Austin Meadows

MLB

Outfield depth in the minors softens the blow of losing Austin Meadows

Some fans thought including Austin Meadows in the deal to acquire Chris Archer was too much given his potential. But prospects acquired over the winter and others in the minor league system helps to soften the blow of losing the former first-round draft pick.

While it is no doubt exciting that the Pittsburgh Pirates finally made a move at the trading deadline and brought in a top of the line starter like Chris Archer, it did not come without a cost.

In addition to sending Tyler Glasnow and a player to be named later, they also had to part ways with Austin Meadows.

In his short time at the Major League level, Meadows showed signs of being a productive mainstay in the outfield for many years to come. But before being sent to Indianapolis prior to the trade, Meadows had lost playing time and seemed to not have a place on the 2018 team.

In 154 at-bats with the parent club, Meadows slashed .292/.327/.468 with five home runs and four stolen bases in five chances. These are fairly impressive numbers for a rookie, but most of the damage was done in May in June.

In July, in what was sporadic playing time on the field, Meadows slashed .235/.242/.478 with just one extra base hit, a double on July 1st in San Diego. Just as, if not more troubling, he had just one walk to 10 strikeouts in that month.

Because of the struggles of Meadows in July and the fantastic play of Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco, it is easy to see what the Pirates might have been fine with including him in the deal.

Meadows has also dealt with more than his fair share of injuries so far in his career. From an oblique injury to multiple hamstring injuries to even an errant foot injury from a foul ball, Meadows has had trouble staying on the field. For this reason, the team may have been willing to include him in the deadline deal.

Another potential reason the Pirates might have been willing to part with Meadows is that they have some outfield prospects in the minors that could be ready to play in Pittsburgh in the next two years. Some of them are in Altoona while others are further away, but the team definitely has reinforcements arriving in the next few years to offset the loss of Meadows.

Of the four players the Pirates received from the Houston Astros in exchange for Gerrit Cole, Jason Martin was the only one that had never played at the Major League level.

Martin could be ready to join the Pirates as soon as next year given that he has already moved from Altoona to Indianapolis. With the Curve, Martin slashed .325/.392/.522 in 255 at-bats. He knocked 27 extra base hits while in AA, including nine home runs.

His experience in the International League has been limited to 106 at-bats in 30 games, but he taken on the challenge of a new level. For the 2018 season, he’s hitting .310/.376/.496 across both levels and has 11 home runs. If there is one area of his game that needs to improve, it is his decisions on the basepaths. He has eight stolen bases in 19 attempts, but with a good slash line and some pop, Martin should be in the discussion for playing time in the outfield as soon as next year.

Coming over to the club in the deal that sent Andrew McCutchen to San Francisco, Bryan Reynolds lost some development time in April after requiring surgery for a hand injury.

Since returning, Reynolds has continued to build off of the success he found with San Francisco’s Double-A affiliate in 2018. In his 201 at-bats, he has hit just five home runs but some of that can be attributed to the injury he suffered in April. But his has a respectable line of .284/.369/.438 with a respectable 29/47 BB/K so far this season.

So between Martin and Reynolds, the team received two talented outfield prospects that may have made them feel comfortable using Meadows as one of the players used to pry Archer away from Tampa Bay.

Further down on the farm the team has Calvin Mitchell, currently with the West Virginia affiliate. The lefty has had a productive season to date, hitting .286/.354/.438 with eight home runs. He has also hit 21 doubles so he has power that will hopefully continue to evolve as he advances up the chain of minor league teams.

Mitchell’s teammate, Lolo Sanchez, is another outfielder who could be in the team’s plans for 2020 or so. His slash line of .230/.309/.317 is down somewhat compared to the .284/.359/.417 that he posted in the Gulf League last season, but his 33/58 BB/K this year and his 25 stolen bases indicate that he could be a useful contributor to the team in the next few years.

Between the three outfielders currently patrolling the outfield and the prospects listed above (all this without even mentioning Jordan Luplow who could be in the mix), the Pirates clearly felt that they had the depth to make Meadows the most enticing player going to Tampa Bay in return for Archer.

As with any prospect, there is always the chance that Meadows could really break out and make the Pirates regret trading him. But given what the team has at the Major League level now and in the minors, you cannot fault the team for taking the chance.

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