Former top pick has remained healthy in 2015 following earlier injury issues
By Mike Rosenbaum
After missing all but 45 games in 2014 with a hamstring injury, Austin Meadows had one thing on his mind heading into this season: stay on the field.
And that's exactly what he did.
In his first fully healthy campaign, the Pirates' No. 2 prospect showed precisely why the organization made him the No. 9 overall pick in the 2013 Draft. Meadows spent a majority of this past season at Class A Advanced Bradenton, where he batted .307/.357/.407 with 33 extra-base hits and 20 stolen bases in 121 games. The performance was impressive by all standards, but even more so for Meadows, who did it as a 20-year-old in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League.
Meadows' success at Bradenton earned him a promotion to Double-A Altoona in early September ahead of the Eastern League playoffs. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound center fielder responded to the challenge about as well as could have been expected, batting .360 (9-for-25) with five extra-base hits in six games for the Curve.
"The pitchers can spot-up real well, and they know what they're doing up there," Meadows said when asked about the differences between the Class A Advanced and Double-A levels. "That was a big adjustment for me, but I feel like I handled it well and was just really excited to be there with those guys."
More importantly, after playing in a combined 93 games over the first two years of his career, Meadows was able to stay healthy this past season and log 127 games between the two stops.
"It was a big year," said MLBPipeline.com's No. 22 overall prospect. "Headed into last offseason, I felt like I really needed to make it a point to go out there this year and stay healthy. I really took care of my body, and that was a big thing I learned about myself this year."
Now in the Arizona Fall League, Meadows is tacking on even more games while manning center field for the Glendale Desert Dogs.
"It means a lot to come out here and work on my game and extend my season -- to get used to [the length of] a big league season," he said. "It was definitely a goal last offseason coming into the year -- to come here and finish the season strong."
While Meadows has struggled so far in the Fall League -- which is understandable given his age and that he's approaching 140 games played this season -- there have been some positive takeaways from his performance, such as how four of his first eight hits went for extra bases.
After hitting for average at every stop in his career, power is the one aspect of Meadows' game that is yet to develop; he's totaled only 17 home runs in 220 career games in the Minor Leagues.
However, Meadows believes it's only a matter of time until some of his hits begin to clear fences. Scouts feel the same way, projecting the left-handed hitter for 55 power (on the 20-to-80 scouting scale) at maturity.
"It's a confidence piece," said Meadows about his power potential. "It's a process; just go out there and play the game, and what comes will definitely come. Patience is key for me, definitely."
Pirates pitchers in the Fall League
• Steven Brault, LHP - The Pirates' No. 26 prospect quietly had a strong campaign between Bradenton and Altoona, going 13-4 with a 2.43 ERA while setting career highs in both starts (28) and innings pitched (155 2/3). The 23-year-old lefty turned in his best start of the Fall League on Wednesday, allowing one hit in three scoreless innings against Surprise.
• Cody Dickson, LHP - Dickson, a fourth-round Draft pick in 2013, has always shown a projectable combination of size and stuff. However, the 23-year-old left-hander's strike-throwing ability hasn't come along as expected, and he's missed fewer bats at each stop while progressing through Pittsburgh's farm system.
• Tyler Eppler, RHP - The 2014 sixth-rounder is using the AFL to make up for lost time after making his season debut in early June and subsequently logging only 71 2/3 innings, most of which came in the Florida State League.
• Trevor Williams, RHP - Acquired from the Marlins, who took him with the No. 44 overall pick in the 2013 Draft, at the outset of the Fall League, Williams ranks as the Pirates' No. 21 prospect after reaching Triple-A for the first time this past season. While the 23-year-old right-hander's mature command of a four-pitch mix could help him emerge as a backend starter at some point next season. It also wouldn't be surprising if Pittsburgh used him out the bullpen after deploying him as a reliever in the Fall League.
Pirates hitters in the Fall League
• Reese McGuire, C - The Pirates' No. 6 prospect has always been held in high regard for his plus defense and leadership skills, both of which have been on display in the Fall League, as he's been tasked with handling a variety of arms from across the Minor Leagues. McGuire's bat might continue to lag behind his glove for the next several years, but his mature approach and excellent bat-to-ball skills suggest that it will eventually catch up.
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.