It’s been a long wait

It’s been a long wait for Austin Meadows. The 23 year old, left-hitting centre-fielder was finally called up to the majors by the Pittsburgh Pirates, after Starling Marte was placed on the DL.

The 9th pick in the 2013 draft was highly touted as one of the best pure hitters coming out of high school; however injuries have plagued his progression to the bigs. A First-Team High School All American, Meadows had committed to attend Clemson University but decided to skip college, after being offered a contract to sign for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Meadows was drafted amongst some notable players who have already achieved a lot since playing in the majors. Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger were both all-stars and won rookie of the year awards last year. Kris Bryant who was selected 2nd in the same draft also won rookie of the year, as well as two all-star appearances and was the NL MVP the season he helped the Cubs win the World Series.

Since being drafted, Meadows has been ranked in the top 100 prospects every year. In 2017, he was ranked as high as the 6th best prospect by Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. However, the Pirates had a stacked outfield so chances were always going to be limited, especially as the Pirates had Andrew McCutchen; an NL MVP centre fielder already playing for them.

Injuries and long periods spent on the disabled list have also hampered Meadows’ opportunities. After breaking a bone in his eye during spring training in 2016, Meadows had to work his way back through the minors. He came back and was able to show what he was capable of, hitting .311/.365/.611 for Double-A team Altoona Curve. This earnt Meadows a call up to Indianapolis Indians, the Pirates Triple-A affiliate team. Although Meadows only slashed .214/.297/.460 during his first time at Triple-A level, the Pirates invited him to join them to spring training heading into the 2017 campaign. Although Meadows was able to get extra at-bats whilst McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco were at the World Baseball Classic, he didn’t make the opening day roster and returned to Indianapolis. A recurring hamstring injury slowed down his progression at Indianapolis Indians last season. He ended the season with only 4 home runs, batting .250/.311/.359.

McCutchen is now in San Francisco, but chances of a call up for Meadows have still been limited this season, as the over-achieving Pirates have been hot at-bat all year. A trade in the off-season for outfielder Corey Dickerson has shown the Pirates what extra power can do for a team, whilst Marte and Polanco have helped elevate the Pittsburgh to the top of the NL Central.

That was until yesterday. The Pirates placed Starling Marte on the 10-day disabled list, after the centre-fielder was dealing with a right oblique strain. Meadows finally got the call, that he would be replacing Marte on the roster. The call up was fully deserved for Meadows, as he has batted .294/.336/.397 in Triple-A this year. At only 23, Meadows finally gets his chance. Although he will likely only see regular starts whilst Marte is on the DL, it’s an opportunity for Meadows to experience playing in the major league, and show what he can do at this level. A long process and tough wait since he was drafted in 2013.

Meadows joins the Pirates a day after they beat the San Diego Padres 5-4, and took sole lead of the NL Central division with a 26-17 record.

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