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Meadows’ stock continues to soar, a reward for a new draft doctrine


SOUTH HILLS – Six Pirates made’s top 100 prospects list last night and you could argue that’s light as Reese McGuire has a ceiling as a All-Star catcher, who impacts both defensively and offensively, and Nick Kingham has a chance to be durable, No. 3 type starter. I think the Pirates could place eight in Baseball America’s top 100.

Still, six top 100, and four top 50 prospects, is an impressive haul, and a silverish lining to a quiet offseason for the Pirates. Here are the six and their rank:


13. Gregory Polanco 

16. Jameson Taillon

27. Tyler Glasnow

45. Austin Meadows 

67. Alen Hanson 

74. Josh Bell


But I want to focus on Austin  Meadows, the compensation pick for not signing Mark Appel (No. 17 prospect) in the 2012 draft.



Meadows was giving Clint Hurdle reason to smile during minicamp 


The decision to draft Meadows marked a departure from the Pirates’ previous draft philosophy under Neal Huntington and Greg Smith. From 2008-12 the Pirates had focused on college position players and pitchers  - Pedro Alvarez, Tony Sanchez, Gerrit Cole, Appel - with premium, first-round draft picks, Taillon being the exception.


The Pirates had not drafted a high school position player in the first round since Andrew McCutchen in 2005.  While cherry picking, Eric Hosmer, Mike Trout and Manny Machado were among the prep positional players taken in the first round who were bypassed.


Well, the Pirates turned to a high-upside, high-risk approach in 2013 spending both of their first-round picks on high school positional players with Meadows at No.  9 and McGuire at No. 14. The Pirates shifted to the Hart draft doctrine which I wrote about prior to the 2013 draft here and here


Quite simply high school prospects tend to have higher ceilings – 30 of the MLB’s top 50 prospects were high school picks  – and the Pirates’ best chance to obtain All-Star talent is through the draft.  Meadows had a high ceiling and he showed he’s also an advanced player in putting up a  .316/.424/.554 slash line across two levels in 2013.


Small-market teams should seek All-Stars in the draft and plug holes with marginal talent via free agency.

I spoke with my man John Hart last week and he raved about Meadows, ranking him ahead of Clint Frazier – who was Baseball America’s HS player of the year. Frazier ranked 48th in’s top 100.

“I think Meadows might be the steal of the draft where they got him,” Hart said. “This guy has the ability to be a front-line, impact, both-sides-of-the-ball guy. McGuire has a chance to be an All-Star catcher. You have a corner outfielder (In Meadows) who has a chance to be an All-Star type and a catcher has a chance to be an All-Star type. Now they are three to five years away … but they took a BPA approach in taking Meadows and McGuire 1a and 1b.”

Of course it’s easier to go BPA when you’re working with a deeper system and not trying to force-feed talent quickly to the MLB level. The point is patience is often a virtue and to me the Pirates should have a high-school heavy approach going forward. It will yield more misses but it will yield more stars. And as evidenced by the Meadows ranking, the rewards are far greater from the high-upside approach.

- TS


  1. Jim S. says:

    I saw John Hart on mlb network, and he is high on McGuire, but absolutely loves Meadows. Once again, they went to their standby comparison of Jay Bruce for Meadows. While Bruce is a good player, I would respectfully say that may be aiming a bit low for Meadows. Bruce is going into his age 27 season, and still may improve, but a lot of his success comes from playing half his games in that launching pad in Cincinnati. A whopping 60% of his career HR are hit at home, and his slash lines are:

    Home – .269/.344/.532/.876
    Road – .245/.316/..433/.749

    Vs. lefties, Bruce’s slash line is .234/.306/.438/.744.

    If Meadows is performing like Bruce does in road games after 5 years, he won’t be the potential superstar I’m hoping for. Bruce does not get on base at a very high rate, he doesn’t hit for average, he strikes out a ton, and much of his power is a product of Great American Ballpark. Nothing is assured with prospects, of course, but Meadows doesn’t look like Bruce to me.

  2. BostonsCommon says:

    The Hart Doctrine makes much more sense when you’re not drafting in the top 2-3. It’s easy to take a safe college bat/pitcher if you’re picking first overall. There are close to the bigs, and there’s almost no projection

    Take Alvarez for example. The entire industry said he would 30+ HR, probably stick at 3B, and wouldn’t take much time to reach Pittsburgh. I think most GMs would sign on for that, over an athletic, projectable prep OF, or a prep arm that already hits mid 90s.

    But guys like Alvarez, and Cole, and Appel aren’t available drafting later in the first. Makes the decision to draft high upside prep over guys like Rendon, or Victor Roach, or DJ Peterson a little easier.

  3. Travis Sawchik says:

    I think the industry generally shares your preference of leaning away from risk with elite picks. Tim Beckham is a poster child. But the best athletes and players typically bypass college. 30 of the top 50 prospects were high school picks. … Yes, there’s a Bryant and Gray in every class but most of the lofty ceilings belong to prep prospects.

    The Pirates did have the opportunity to draft a Peterson or Sean Manaea and did not in 2013

  4. NMR says:

    If you remember, Bruce was a bigger prospect than Meadows is now back in the day. Huge expectations.

    I think the comparison comes from swing mechanics, comparable tools, and whiff tendencies. Meadows did K over 22% of the time in rookie ball, fwiw.

  5. BostonsCommon says:

    I don’t know that it’s my preference, or even if it makes more sense. I can just understand why a GM would want to bet his premium pick on a sure thing college bat/arm over a less safe prep player.

    An everyday starter on your MLB roster for the next 6 years might be more appealing that some zit-popping, booger-eating, kid… Even if said kid has the ceiling of an All Star.

    Those are hard moves to make, and hindsight will always be 20-20.

  6. Jim S. says:

    I think it is because for 95% of the college players, we pretty much know their ceilings by their 3rd year. They have, essentially, already played the equivalent of a couple of years of minor league-quality ball. The possibilities are still limitless for the HS kids.

  7. Travis Sawchik says:


    While Bruce hasn’t blossomed into the superstar many envisioned, I think the Pirates would be happy with Meadows becoming an above-average regular like Bruce. I think Bruce has some remaining upside, too.

  8. NMR says:

    “Small-market teams should seek All-Stars in the draft and plug holes with marginal talent via free agency.”

    This sounds great in theory, but think about it in practice. How many holes can small market teams afford to fill through free agency? And what is the return on investment for “marginal talent” in today’s MLB?

    I think this theory gets awfully difficult to pull off, and I don’t think it is sustainable what so ever.

    I know people get sick of hearing it, but I don’t see any reason not to model drafting strategy after the St Louis Cardinals. I think they’ve just about proven that the attrition rate on toolsy high school kids is high enough to make drafting college products worthwhile.

  9. Travis Sawchik says:

    Cardinals have had a lot of success finding undervalued college seniors late in the draft. … Carpenter, Craig, Adams … Maybe there is a hybrid-Moneyball theory out there. Upside early. Undervalued college seniors late. Balance early upside with some relatively high floors.

    Also, you can save money by selecting college seniors later in the draft since they have absolutely no leverage.

  10. Jim S. says:

    True, Travis. Bruce ain’t chopped liver. We could certainly live with that. But, Meadows might become more, which was my point. I think he’s more athletic and seems capable of a very high OBP. John Hart, whose opinion I have come to respect as much as anyone on MLB Network, loves him.

    Regarding Bruce, I wonder if he was rushed a bit by the Reds. He is progressing, but not by all that much. To me, he was as good at 23 as he was at 26. Most of his stats bear that out. He needs to solve hitting vs. LHP.

  11. Jim S. says:

    I think you pick who you think is the right guy on your board when your turn comes, whether he is a HS kid or a college kid. I know that sounds simplistic, but I think there are enough examples of booms and busts, and everything in between with either level of player. The Pirates have had success with pitchers recently from HS and college. They have had success with position players from HS and college. I don’t know that they have a rigid, defined strategy.

  12. NMR says:

    Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Kolten Wong were all high round college picks as well. And to be fair, so were Pete Kozma and Brett Wallace.

    I think you nailed it though, Travis. It’s all about balance.

  13. brendan says:

    In anticipation of BP’s forthcoming Top 101, a couple of recent items Pirate related items from Jason Park’s recent chat for those who might have missed them:

    1) vegetto712 (Florida): Name game time! Outside of the top 50 prospects, give me 2 pitchers and 2 hitters you think are going to be well within the top 50 by this time next year!

    Jason Parks: David Dahl and Josh Bell with the stick; Alex Reyes and Braden Shipley with the arm

    2) tr (Mattress factory by the Goldsteins): In a couple years, which 2013 draftee are teams gonna be sick they didn’t draft earlier?

    Jason Parks: From the first round, McGuire, Shipley, Marco Gonzalez, and Hunter Harvey come to mind as guys that will be viewed as draft steals.

    3) Mike (Utica, NY): Why do people still think Jameson Taillon is highly regarded, is it because he was the 2nd pick of a draft in between two perennial All Stars? Looking back do the Pirates have to be kicking themselves for not taking Machado at 2?

    Jason Parks: The same people down on Taillon are most likely the same people that were down on Cole. They focus too much on the minor league numbers and lose the developmental context involved with the process. Taillon might not be the ace some thought when he was drafted, but I guarantee he makes some of doubters look short-sighted and foolish in the coming years. He’s still a top 20 prospect in baseball and the top prospect in the Pirates system. Don’t overthink things.

    4) Matt Trueblood (F**k Minnesota): Taillon over Polanco surprises me. What’s your stance on GP these days?

    Jason Parks: I like him. He’s a legit high-end prospect, but he isn’t without warts. I just like Taillon more. Higher ceiling for me.

    5) Daddyboy (Mpls): Would you trade Profar for Cole, based on need?

    Jason Parks: Gerrit Cole? Hell yes. No question or hesitation. Cole has the stuff to develop into a legit number one starter. Give me that all day long.

  14. Steelkings says:

    I had a travel team that played at East Cobb against Meadows. He went 4 for 5. The park in Georgia we played in was huge and had horrific lighting. He hit 3 home runs and a triple off the top of the fence. I was calling the pitches. He hit every thing we through up there. A change up. a hard Curve ball. A fastball. They all left the yard. The two that amazed me were the 0-2 curveball 6 inches of the plate that he hit off the top of the fence for a triple and the intentional walk attempt that he line hard to the corner.

  15. Ghost says:

    The power sounds truly awesome. Let’s hope he’s not enamored with swinging at “curveball(s) 6 inches of the plate” and “intentional walk attempts,” though. That’s high school stuff. I don’t think even Starling Marte swings at intentional walk balls.

    Very cool personal experience, Steelkings. Thanks for sharing.

  16. LeeFoo says:

    Brendan…thx. Good stuff.

    I, too, am in the “wanted Machado” camp, but if JT develops into a “1A” or #2, I’ll be happy.

  17. Steelkings says:

    The part that you may not have considered was how rude it was of me to intentionally walk a 16 year old kid with 30 scouts standing around.

  18. Nate83 says:

    By definition they are prospects for longer so it makes sense. Meadows will probably spend at least 2 probably 3 or 4 years on this list as opposed to someone like Cole who barely spends a year on list like this.

  19. Since it is presently the season to sign Minor League contracts to boost system:

    ——I wish the BMTIB would have signed Lars Anderson, lefty 1st baseman, who just signed with the Cubs. His stats are erratic, but my eyes have liked his swing and his quick feet around the 1st base bag
    ——I wish the BMTIB would have signed Luke Carlin, a catcher who just signed with the Indians. Not a stick but a fine receiver of pitches and a little more stable defensively behind the dish than Tony Sanchez
    ——I wish the BMTIB would look into Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz, who is eligible to be signed as a 23 year old on February 19th. Bucs’ depth at that crucial position is ludicrous.

    Can Bucs win with only an “adequate” fielding shortstop playing a majority of the games? This season will tell us.

  20. Jim S. says:

    Count me in as well for Machado. I would really love to have him. But, it is not as though we ended up with a bust when we passed on Manny. We still got someone who may be a future all star.

  21. Jim S. says:

    So, you’re saying you think he’s, what, pretty good, Steel?

    Or, that you just need to let your pitchers and catchers call their own games? Haha!

  22. Cato the Elder says:

    Might it be that 30 of the top 50 prospects were drafted out of HS because HS prospects spend more time in the minors (as prospects) compared to elite college picks who start at a higher levels and advance more quickly (less adjustment to a full schedule, etc).

  23. Ghost says:

    Good one! Meadows padded his stats beating Steelking.

  24. Steelkings says:

    No Jim, I think maybe I should have had my first pitcher throw one under his chin and then maybe the outside corner would have gotten a little bigger.

  25. Ghost says:

    And that was a good retort.
    By the way, is your club team affiliated with any high school program, or do you have to find your own players? I put together a 16U team myself, this past autumn. The coach where my own kids play and where some of the other players came from, actually undermined my efforts. Any advice for attracting/picking up new players when one doesn’t have a track record yet?

  26. Steelkings says:

    Its hard Ghost. I coached for a Midwest/National organization. The bigger organizations are always looking for players which leave slim pickings for the little guys. My advice would be to let the kids recruit each other.

  27. LeeFoo says:

    I can only agree with the last one.

    Can’t believe anyone is still on the “Lars Train”.

    I thought George Carlin was dead. oh wait…………..

  28. Ghost says:

    Thanks, Steelkings. Makes sense.

  29. Jumped to the “Lars Train” from the “Matt Hague bicycle”

  30. NMR says:

    Would love to hear explanations on Meadows and Hanson. Yikes.

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