Monday, February 27, 2017

2015 Austin Meadows

Today I am looking into the current top prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization: Austin Meadows.  The reason I chose Meadows was the I have heard his name so many times as a top end prospect, but never knew why.  And that’s sort of the point of this blog, isn’t it?  To get to know the next generation of players in this game.  

One of the things that surprised me when I was researching was that Meadows has not had a shot at the Big Leagues yet.  I had naturally assumed that since I was so aware of his name for a couple of years that he would have at least gotten a September call-up.  But I was wrong.  

Looking into his scouting reports and Minor League career, I definitely got excited about what kind of player he will be when he does get his opportunity.  And aside from Meadows’ career, the card itself is definitely different than what I have looked at in previous posts.   

Player History:

If memory serves me correct, I remember reading in either ESPN or Sports Illustrated an article that highlighted the connection between Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier as top prospects coming out of Georgia before the 2013 MLB draft.  That’s how long Meadow’s has been in my  mental baseball orbit, even if I had never heard of Bowman Inception or cared about prospects at all up to that point in my life.  

Meadows was the 9th overall pick int he 2013 draft, coming out of Georgia.  Most of the research I did focused on what was being said about him leading into that draft.  Of interesting note was the comment that his dad was a college football and baseball player while his mom played softball in college.  Someday I would love to do a more in depth study of the correlation between college athletes and whether or not their parents were also collegiate athletes.  If anything, it will be fun to have a reason to type the word collegiate more often, it has such an old-school feel to it, no?

Here are the common threads about Meadows that I found from scouts describing his baseball potential:

  • Meadows has harnessed his athleticism to become a pure hitter with a short, smooth stroke who sprays line drives to all fields. 
  • He remains in the process of unlocking his raw power as he continues to get comfortable turning on pitches and learning when it is wise to sell out for power
  • Defensively, he is a fluid outfielder with outstanding instincts that allow him to get good jumps in center field and run down fly balls from gap to gap. 
  • His arm is slightly above-average, which will allow him to play right field if needed. 
  • Meadows wins high marks for his makeup as a hard worker with a great attitude and leadership capabilities. 
The one of there major point of emphasis was his overall speed.  Apparently Meadows scores high marks in all the categories scouts looks for, even if his power at the plate is something that they can only project will pan out.  
Meadows first put himself on the radar of scouts at the IBAF World Championships in 2011while playing for Team USA.  Among his impressive stats were three straight games with four hits and 28 RBI, propelling him to be named Co-MVP of the tournament.  
One of the more interesting aspects of scouts takes on Meadows that I found were the Major League player comparisons.  The names I saw most strongly associated with Meadows were: Jay Bruce, Colby Rasmus, Andre Eithier and Jacoby Ellsbury.  I laugh because obviously it’s a great thing to be compared to guys who have made it to sustained careers in the Majors, but those guys?  As someone who watched a lot of Colby Ramus over the last two years in Houston…yikes.  
Probably a better prophecy of Meadow’s future was this comment: “Meadows projects to be a star-caliber player and probably will follow in the footsteps of such outfielders as Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco.”  I imagine anyone would take that as high praise!  
When I first started reading through Meadow’s stats, I admit that I was not overly impressed.  Nothing jumped out at me the way some things have with other prospects.  It was weird to know in my head that he has made it to being the top prospect for the Pirates without anything eye popping in my opinion.  Even his stolen base numbers are very low for a guy touted as a speedy player.  
But the more I soaked in the numbers, the more I realized that his overall game is very much ready to take on the MLB.  Here is what his numbers look like beginning in 2013 Rookie and Short Season A level ball:
  • 2013 Stats (Rookie and SS A): G: 48, HR: 5, RBI: 22, BB: 29 , SO: 46 AVG: .316, OBP: .424
  • 2014 Stats (Rookie and Full Season A) : G: 45, HR: 3, RBI: 16, BB: 19, SO: 33 AVG: .317, OBP: .394
  • 2015 Stats (A Advanced and AA): G: 127, HR, 7, RBI: 55, BB: 43, SO: 84, AVG: .310, OPB: .360
  • 2016 Stats (SS A, AA and AAA): G: 87, HR: 12, RBI: 47, BB: 33, SO: 67, AVG: .266 OBP: .333
  • Overall in Minors: G: 307, HR: 29, RBI: 140, BB: 124, SO: 230, AVG: .300 OBP: .368
These numbers garnered him a number of recognitions by Baseball America over the last three years, most notably a nod to the Futures Game in 2016, which unfortunately he had to miss with an injury.
In the end, injuries have been the one major blip on his career that I can seen. Hamstring injuries have been the primary culprit, cutting short his development in 2014 and 2016.  

Look of the Card:

I had originally considered looking at both the 2015 and 2014 versions of Meadows’ Inception cards, but then I thought that waiting a long while and revisiting him in a profile after he has had time in the Majors might prove very useful. So there is that.  

The look of the 2015 Inception remains my third favorite or the four, and this one if just really intriguing to me.  Of the players I have profiled, this is the first one that is a pre-action type of shot.  Instead of the follow through of Correa (at bat) or Berrios and De Leon (pitching), Meadows is in locked and loaded position before a pitch is delivered.  

The three things that pop out to me about this look are: 1) How different the feel is of the pictures since it is pre-action instead of mid- or post-action, 2) How dark the card looks overall because of the essentially all black jersey, and 3) How much of the word Inception is covered at the top of the card.   

This is the first card I have profiled in which the player isn’t facing the camera, and thus has his back turned for the photo.  There is something that feels so much less exciting about this than when Soler was in mid-jog or De Leon is staring at his pitch, willing it to cross the plate at the perfect spot.  I find myself almost wishing the signature was across his back, where a player’s last name usually is on a jersey, just because the whole-back side thing just doesn’t feel right.  Yes, I realize that once again I am talking about the feel of a photo on a baseball card.  

I think it may have something to do with the fact that it seems so much less personal.  It could be any ballplayer standing there for the picture because we don’t see his face at all.  Again, it’s lacking the personality of the previous cards I have looked at.  Nothing makes it stand out as Austin Meadows. 

One of the redeeming values, to me, is the fact that at least the A and M of his signature are easily identified and we get the bonus of the T in Austin.  In all honestly, this is pretty similar to how I sign my name and if my name were Austin Meadows, I would probably write it just like that. 

I love how the back of the card describes Meadows as a “smooth swinger.”  Isn’t funny how many times a left hander (no matter his overall level of talent) is described as having a smooth swing?  I’m not biased in any way though, as a left handed batter myself…

Card Value:
If I had to describe the value of this card in the simplest of terms, it would be that it’s generally more stable than most I have looked at and averages a slightly higher level of payout for the sellers than any except Correa that I researched.  

Curren eBay listings for this specific card range from $9.99-$13.49.  There is, however, a special 1/1 listing for $350 if you are interested in that sort of thing!  On COMC, there is only one available currently, and it is listed at $11.50, so right in line with eBay asking prices.  

As for sales, the lowest it has gone since December 18 is $4.02 on ebay.  The highest sale price for one card was $10.50, though a lot of 2 of these went for $17 (averaging $8.50 per card).  Surprisingly, there have only been seven of the base card sold on ebay in the last three months.  The top overall sale in that time frame was a graded (9.5) version of the Orange Parallel (counted at /25) that sold for $35.  On COMC, there have been 34 sales of the card since it debuted, and twice there have been 8 copies bought in one quarter.  
So all-in-all, it seems that the market shows a slightly higher expectation of success for Meadows (in terms of what people are willing to pay).  Though it is surprising that there are not as many ridiculous asking prices as some of the other cards, considering that Meadows still rates as the prospect most ready to come up for the Pirates. 
I can honestly say I am more excited about following Meadows this year after doing this profile.  As someone who has been compared to so many MLB contributors, as well as someone who is said will fit in with the line of amazing outfielders for the Pirates, there could be great things in store for Austin Meadows.  Sadly, it seems that it will take an injury or a trade of someone like McCutchen for Meadows to get a full blown shot at proving himself.  Here’s hoping they figure something out a different way!

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