Tampa Bay Rays: It is time for the Austin Meadows show

Austin Meadows (Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images)
Austin Meadows (Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images) /

With Mallex Smith out of the equation for the 2019 season, Austin Meadows will finally get the starting role that he deserves. The talented outfield prospect who  came over in the Chris Archer trade will look to make a statement in his first full season in Tampa Bay.

The former number one prospect in the Pirates organization and mainstay on MLB’s Top-100 prospects list since he was drafted, Austin Meadows will look to live up to his expectations in 2019 as the starting right fielder for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Meadows, 23, drafted 9th overall by the Pirates in the 2013 draft, was viewed as not only one of the best players in the draft, but the best overall athlete. Often overlooked as one of the top prospects in baseball prior to making his major league debut for the Pirates earlier this year in May, it has always been clear that Meadows possesses elite tools.

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The power never really emerged for Meadows in the Pirates system but he still showed consistent gap to gap power. The Rays realized that after acquiring Meadows, who they sent to Durham for regular playing time, that they would need to make space for him in a crowded outfield.

In 27 games, Meadows absolutely obliterated International League pitching. The long-awaited power emerged as he hit 10 homers in just 96 at- bats in Durham. Prior to the 2018 season in which he had stints at the Triple-A level with both the Rays and Pirates, Meadows only hit 35 homers in 1,826 at bats.

In 27 games with Durham he averaged a homer for roughly every 10 at-bats. Prior to 2018, he averaged a homer for roughly every 53 at-bats. Something clicked for Meadows in Durham where he hit .344 with a .771 slugging percentage. With these crazy numbers, the Rays realized that they needed to find an everyday role for Meadows in Tampa Bay come the 2019 season.

At the Major League level with the Pirates and Rays, Meadows hit .287 over 178 at-bats with 6 homers and 17 runs batted in. He slugged at a .461 clip and had an 114 OPS+. Not too bad for his first taste of big league baseball.

With the emergence of Mallex Smith in 2018, the Rays were going to be hard pressed to find an everyday role for their newly acquired outfield prospect. Well, as it turns out, they weren’t really hard pressed at all, sending Mallex Smith to Seattle in a swap that netted them Mike Zunino.

With Mallex gone, the Rays relieved themselves of an overcrowded outfield filled with left-handed hitters. Austin Meadows will enter 2019 as the starting right fielder for a Tampa Bay Rays team looking to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

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The Rays trust Meadows and his abilities and will look to him to make an immediate impact in their everyday lineup. The sky is the limit for Meadows, who won’t become a free agent until 2025 and isn’t arbitration eligible until 2022. The Rays opened the door for Meadows, lets see if he takes advantage of his first real opportunity in the bigs.

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Let the Austin Meadows show begin.