When the Detroit Tigers acquired Austin Meadows from the Tampa Bay Rays for Isaac Paredes and a competitive balance pick on April 4, 2022, the team thought they were getting a middle of the order bat for a lineup that was in dire need of some offensive punch. In the wake of Riley Greene’s fractured foot, the Tigers hoped Meadows could help carry the offense until Greene returned. Things quickly went sideways from there, as Meadows would only play in 36 games for Detroit. Paredes began to rake for the Rays as the Tigers’ season quickly spiraled out of control.
Meadows came to Detroit with a track record of success at every level. The Pittsburgh Pirates selected him out of high school with the ninth pick in the first round of the 2016 draft. He was traded along with Tyler Glasnow and Shane Baz to Tampa for All-Star pitcher Chris Archer, and made the All-Star team in 2019. He slashed .291/.364/.558 for an OPS of .922 and OPS+ of 144. He slugged 33 home runs and drove in 89 with a dozen stolen bases for the Rays. He raked against right handers and struggled some against left handed pitching.
After playing in only 36 games during the COVID shortened 2020 season, Meadows hit another 27 homers with 106 RBI in 2021, this time batting just .234/.315/.458 with an OPS of .772 and OPS+ of +115. Detroit had every reason to believe he would provide real offensive punch to a lineup that sorely needed it. Instead the 27-year-old outfielder missed most of the season and wasn’t a factor at all.
Austin Meadows 2019- 2022
2022 was a season where pretty much everything that could go wrong did for Austin Meadows. From a bout with COVID, to a case of vertigo and then injuries to both of his Achilles tendons, Meadows couldn’t get right and dealt with some anxiety to cap things off. He finished the season on the 60-day injured list, with several stops and starts on minor league rehab assignments in between. He slashed .250/.347/.328/ with an OPS of .675 and without a home run in 147 plate appearances while in the major leagues.
Meadows comes to spring training in 2023 hoping to wipe the slate clean and get back to the form that he showed in Tampa Bay. He has reportedly lost 15- 20 lbs. and has a new diet after returning to his old trainer this offseason. He is still just 27 years old, bats left-handed and has two seasons of club control remaining before he would be eligible for free agency. As a nice perk, his younger brother, Parker Meadows is in camp this spring also, but will be headed to the minors before opening day. There’s a very good chance the younger Meadows gets his first cup of coffee sometime this summer, so both Meadows boys have good reason to be extra motivated.
Austin Meadows figures to play the dominant side of a platoon in the Tigers’ outfield, probably batting in the heart of the lineup. He’s best protected from tough lefties, but the Tigers may not have that luxury. They have just one right handed hitting outfielder in Matt Vierling, along with left handers Riley Greene, Meadows, Akil Baddoo, and Kerry Carpenter. One or more of these lefties will have to see some plate appearances against left handed pitchers, and considering the injuries last season, Meadows may also split some DH time with Carpenter along the way.
2023 is all about getting production out of the young prospects, with Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene atop the list. But in order to avoid another total disaster in the run production department, they really need bounce back seasons from a couple of veterans like Javier Báez and Austin Meadows. Meadows is a proven hitter, and as long as he can stay healthy he’ll make a big impact in the Tigers’ lineup in year two.