Spring training produces a few freak injuries each year, and in 2016, Austin Meadows might’ve been the unluckiest Pirate.
The ninth overall pick in the 2013 draft, Meadows was playing catch during spring training when he fractured his right orbital bone.
At the time, our Rob Biertempfel noted that former Pirate A.J. Burnett returned from a similar injury, sustained during spring training 2012, in about six weeks after an initial estimate that he would miss between eight and 12 weeks.
The healing process was similar for Meadows. Forty-eight days after the orbital fracture was said to have happened, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound outfielder sent the following tweet:
Finally back in action! Game day!
— Austin Meadows (@austin_meadows) April 25, 2016
After spending some time in extended spring training, Double-A Altoona announced Monday that Meadows had rejoined the Curve, a team with which he spent six games in 2015. Born May 3, 1995, he is the youngest player on the Double-A roster, two months and a day younger than catcher Reese McGuire.
The Pirates’ No. 2 prospect according to MLB.com, Meadows went 3 for 12 with a double, two walks and four strikeouts in his first three games entering Friday.
Meadows has shown he’s a .300 hitter at full health, and he’ll need some time to show that again. Granted, he put together strong numbers in 2013 and 2014 at lower levels, but 223 games into his minor league career, he’s hitting .312.
It’s not unreasonable to anticipate something similar this year, and traditionally Meadows is a stronger hitter as the year goes on.
Last April, he hit .293 with 10 strikeouts. Combining his last August and September, Meadows struck out 25 times but hit .319 with 19 RBIs in 35 games between High-A Bradenton and Double-A Altoona.
In 2014, he hit .309 in his first 22 games with Low-A Charleston and .325 in his last 23 games. Meadows’ rookie year, 2013, was fairly steady. He managed a .313 batting average in the first 24 games of his 48-game season and hit .321 to close out the season.
Of note: Of the 15 Pirates position player prospects (say that 10 times fast) in the club’s top 30 (per MLB.com), five were hitting above .300 as of Friday. They are No. 3 Josh Bell (.301, Triple-A), No. 7 Ke’Bryan Hayes (.348, Low-A), No. 10 Alen Hanson (.328, Triple-A), No. 11 Kevin Newman (.357, High-A) and No. 27 Adam Frazier (.305, Triple-A).
ESPOSITO’S PRAISE OF HAYES
In this Sunday’s Trib, we profile Low-A Charleston third baseman and 2015 first round selection Ke’Bryan Hayes, who, entering Friday, was hitting .348 with 14 RBIs.
His manager, Brian Esposito, has seen Hayes have some good and not-so-good stretches at the plate during spring training and the first stretch of the 2016 season. But a phrase Esposito used three or four times during a Tuesday interview referenced Hayes’ ability to “wash off” or turn the page better than other players at his level. Esposito said that might have something to do with Hayes’ family’s long history in professional baseball.
Hayes’ father, Charlie, played 14 years of major league baseball after spending the better part of seven years in the minors. His older brother, Tyree, pitched in 112 minor league games. In short, there’s a very strong chance Hayes had a better understanding than most when he was drafted as to what minor league life entails.
“I mean, he knew exactly what he was getting himself into. There are some guys that you deal with that are not getting the results they want the first two, three weeks of the season and you see some guys show some frustration and they start getting away from what their plan is,” Esposito said. “This kid knows exactly what he needs, what he wants to do, and he goes out and executes it.”
Hayes said something that has allowed him to relax to start the season is familiarity. Many of the players he ended last season with in Morgantown are the same guys he figures to spend much of this season with in Charleston. He added that continuity is a big reason for the Power’s 14-7 start.
“Automatically when I got into the locker room, I could tell everyone was for everyone. It’s a great group of guys and it’s a fun atmosphere to be around,” Hayes said. “Definitely coming in with the same group of guys, everyone knows everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and everyone’s comfortable being around each other. Everyone has a feel for each other, so it’s pretty good.”
In case you were wondering: Hayes has two walkup songs, and both feature Future (say that 10 times fast). He said they are “New Level” by ASAP Ferg feat. Future and “Last Breath” by Future.
Triple-A right-hander (and No. 4 prospect, per MLB.com) Jameson Taillon earned a no-decision Thursday after allowing just one run on five hits over a season-high seven innings.
His fourth start of the season also offered a first — a walk. Taillon walked two hitters to drop his strikeout-to-walk ratio to 23-to-2. Before that start it had been, you know, infinity.
Through four starts, Taillon is 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA. Entering Friday, Triple-A Indianapolis had walked 54 hitters, giving it the second lowest walk total in the International League.