Even as a game steeped in tradition, baseball rides the waves of its own fads and trends. On a game-wide scale, players are putting more and more emphasis on hitting home runs in recent years. Depending on who you talk to, that has been either a reaction to, or the cause, of the unprecedented level of strikeouts, a trend that has been written about at great length. Trends also occur within organizations. For example, the Houston Astros highly value spin rate and have tailored recent trades and coaching techniques to match. Our own Detroit Tigers have been stockpiling sidearm pitchers in the minor leagues and are teaching others to lower their arm angle.
Another recent trend in the game has been the surge of players with strong baseball bloodlines. For proof, look no further than the consensus top prospect in baseball: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. He’s the son and namesake of Hall of Fame outfielder Vladimir Guerrero Sr. Other examples include two other Blue Jays prospects: Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio, as well as top prospect shortstop, Fernando Tatis Jr.
Several of the top 30 prospects on our list here at Bless You Boys also have big-league families. Daz Cameron’s father, Mike, was of course a fine major league player. Our #13 prospect, Kody Clemens, is the son of the legendary, and/or infamous, Roger Clemens. In fact, two of the Tigers top three picks in the 2018 draft fall in this category with the inclusion of outfielder Parker Meadows. His brother is former top prospect Austin Meadows, who should have a spot on the Rays’ bench in 2019.
Let’s take a look at what the younger Meadows brother has offer.
After a very successful high school career that saw him hit .370/.516/.618, Parker Meadows was taken by the Detroit Tigers in the second round of the 2018 draft. We had had an inkling that the Tigers were interested in him — he was scouted personally by General Manager Al Avila as the big day got close. They went nearly a million dollars over slot to sign him to a pro contract, and he entered pro ball with a fervor.
Meadows dominated rookie ball, slashing .284/.376/.500 over the course of 22 games. He finished out the year on a six-game stint in Connecticut, where he hit .316/.381/.368. Both performances rated as well above average according to wRC+, although those sample sizes are far too small to really weight too heavily. And on the negative side, Meadows’ swing length and contact issues reared their head to the tune of a near 30 percent strikeout rate across both stops. The potential is huge, but he’s still raw enough that projecting his final outcome remains very difficult.
If everything goes right, Meadows has the potential to be an impact performer on both sides of the ball. His offensive skills center around his raw power, which some evaluators think could reach plus. He’s able to leverage his long limbs and quick hands into hard contact. Bless You Boys’ own Brandon Day turned his analytical lens on the young outfielder a little while ago, using the spray chart below.
“Those two massive dongs to right field give some indication of his nascent raw power,” he wrote.
The high-end athleticism that makes Meadows a threat in the batter’s box also makes his a talented player in the outfield. His 6’5”, 185 pound frame was practically built for chasing down balls in center field. “He’s a 70 runner with a 60 arm, that will work anywhere,” wrote FanGraphs prospect guru Kiley McDaniel. “Tools are Bradley Zimmer level, so that’s an outcome if you think he hits enough.”
For those of you more mathematically inclined, it could also be expressed this way: prospects are graded on a scale from 20 to 80 with each increase of ten representing a standard deviation above or below the average. That would mean that Meadows’ ability to run is two standard deviations above average; his throwing arms one standard deviation above average.
Perfect Game, a nationally recognized scouting service, measured his top 60-meter-dash time at 6.51 seconds. He can throw pretty hard, too. The same scouting service clocked his hardest throw from the outfield at 92 miles per hour. Those ranked in the 98th and 95th percentile for his graduating class.
For those of you less mathematically inclined, that’s really good. Meadows has everything he needs to be a successful ballplayer in nearly every way at his disposal.
The main reason Meadows slipped to the second round is because scouts have a hard time predicting his hit tool with confidence. Prep prospects have a notoriously difficult time adjusting to pro ball for a variety of reasons. They’re on their own for the first time, pitched into a rigorous schedule, with little to no direction when it comes to things like nutrition and mental health. Much of the maturity, experience, and growth that college players accumulate during their campus years are forced into an accelerated timetable for teenage professionals. That’s all before you take into account on-field difficulties and major step up in quality of competition.
Meadows is no exception to any of these. The sheer volume and number of his tools make him a tantalizing athlete to project, but the Tigers are going to have to build him from the ground up. There’s no doubt about it, he’s a long-term project that the Tigers will have to handle with care.
Unfortunately, because he is still quite raw as a hitter, there’s not a ton of well-balanced information out there on Meadows. We don’t know all that much about what his red flags might be, only why he could be incredible. To equate that to there being no reason for concern would be shortsighted, though. Odds are good that something will present itself sooner than later. All of this is just to say that prep prospects are risky, with an even less predictable range of outcomes to players drafted out of college programs.
The current Tigers front office regime has little to no track record with developing players like Meadows, so it’s difficult to predict what they might do with him. They’ve done a good job bringing along their young pitching talent recently, but hitting is a different animal entirely. It will be very interesting to watch his growth as a player.
Projected 2019 Team: Single-A West Michigan
There’s a lot to like in this profile, but there’s a lot of work that needs to be done too. All the physical talent and intuitive skill in the world are worthless if a prospect can’t consistently make quality contact. There’s a lot of innate risk in using a high draft pick to acquire a player with questions about his ability to hit, but the Tigers knew that when they signed him. The top brass is likely to take things slow in this case, especially since the upside is so high if he pans out.
Still, the last two prep position players the Tigers have taken in the first two rounds started out their first full season in West Michigan. Expect Meadows to follow in the footsteps of Derek Hill and Nicholas Castellanos and spend the whole year at the Single-A level. He needs to start getting all the reps possible against better competition and West Michigan makes the most sense. The Tigers took things more slowly with recent first round prep picks, Matt Manning and Beau Burrows, but the calculus is different for pitchers. Look forward to watching Meadows settle in as a cornerstone of the Whitecaps lineup in 2019.