Mead hammers go-ahead 3-run HR

October 16th, 2021

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- has hit everywhere in the last 12 months. That started when he posted a .951 OPS in 22 games back home in the Australian Baseball League. It continued in the regular season with impressive turns at Low-A Charleston and High-A Bowling Green. It was even the case in a four-game cameo at Triple-A Durham. Searching for a challenge for the 20-year-old infielder, the Rays sent him to the Arizona Fall League, extending his 2021 into October and November.

The Mead of the spring would have been shocked this happened so quickly in his career. The Mead of the present is still trying to take it in himself.

“It’s been a wild ride,” he said. “I’m trying to enjoy it.”

That shouldn’t be too hard after Friday’s performance.

Tampa Bay’s No. 14 prospect hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the seventh inning to give visiting Scottsdale a 4-3 win over Glendale at Camelback Ranch.

The dinger was Mead’s first of the Arizona Fall League in his second game playing with the Scorpions. It came on a 1-0 pitch from Astros right-hander R.J. Freure with runners on the corners and the Desert Dogs leading 2-1. The right-handed slugger was able to clean out a pitch on the outer half and deposit it onto the Camelback berm, just above the 380 foot sign in right-center.

“I was looking for something I could get to up in the zone, hit something up in the air to tie the game with a sac fly,” Mead said, “and I got lucky with a couple bonus runs.”

The homer was his only hit of the day, though he also added a walk in the ninth. The Australia native is now 2-for-7 with a homer and the free pass through his first two games in Arizona this autumn.

Those early performances are at least promising signs that Mead can carry his regular-season performances to the Fall League, even with a jump in the level of competition. He jumped onto many radars after hitting .356/.408/.586 in 47 games with Charleston in his first taste of full-season ball. His numbers only dipped slightly with Bowling Green (.282/.348/.466), even upon reaching the level at the same age as a college sophomore. Some emergency roster shuffling forced the Rays to give him a four-game look at Triple-A in September, and he did more than hold his own there as well, going 6-for-14 with three extra-base hits.

Mead’s best skill is making sharp contact, and he does so often from an upright stance. He managed 55 extra-base hits (mostly through 38 doubles) over 104 games this summer while striking out in only 15.5 percent of his plate appearances -- a strong K rate for a position player with his pro experience level. He’s able to find the gaps with relative ease and has enough pop to put the occasional ball over the fence right now, as he did Friday.

It’s made a lot of the baseball world pay attention, and with all the movement thus far, even Mead said it took some time for him to soak up his 2021 accomplishments.

“I’d probably say [it took] toward the end of the year,” he said. “Probably after I went to Triple-A and showed I could play up there. I [thought] this is everything I’ve dreamed of, so it’s really been an unbelievable season.”

It’s not over yet, of course. Mead has five more weeks to show his bat can play against some of the top pitching prospects baseball has to offer. Friday’s homer was certainly yet another point in his favor.

“It brings a lot of confidence,” he said. “I feel like I belong here now, which is awesome.”

No. 5 Red Sox prospect Jeter Downs also homered for Scottsdale in the win. No. 8 Dodgers prospect Landon Knack struck out three and allowed only one hit in three scoreless innings of relief for Glendale, and teammate Orlando Martinez -- the No. 26 prospect in the Angels system -- picked up two singles as the only player for either side with multiple hits.