PITTSBURGH -- Austin Meadows wore No. 13 with Triple-A Indianapolis last season. He won't wear it again this year."I had a lot of injuries, so I'm not going back to that one," Meadows said. "That's an unlucky number in general, anyway."But Meadows, the Pirates' top prospect according to MLB Pipeline,
PITTSBURGH -- Austin Meadows wore No. 13 with Triple-A Indianapolis last season. He won't wear it again this year.
"I had a lot of injuries, so I'm not going back to that one," Meadows said. "That's an unlucky number in general, anyway."
But Meadows, the Pirates' top prospect according to MLB Pipeline, has changed more than just his number in an effort to avoid the injuries that have plagued him throughout his climb up Pittsburgh's Minor League system. The 22-year-old outfielder employed a new trainer this offseason as he worked to prevent more troublesome oblique and hamstring injuries.
"It's been a tough road, but I feel like that's behind me now," Meadows told MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo at the Rookie Career Development Program. "I've really learned a lot. I've ventured out, learned a lot about myself and my body."
At the end of November, Meadows proposed to his longtime girlfriend. He spent this week at the Pirates' voluntary minicamp in Bradenton, Fla., after taking part in the Rookie Career Development Program in Leesburg, Va. The rest of the offseason, Meadows has been working out with a renewed focus on his form during one-on-one training sessions.
"Really had to take care of myself and be more strict on my body -- whether it's been my diet or anything off the field, just really taking care of it and putting my career first," Meadows said. "Not that I haven't done that in the past, but just being a lot more nailed down in that sense. I'm definitely looking forward to the opportunity this year, looking forward to staying on the field.
"When I stay on the field, I'm definitely capable of doing a lot on the field, as I have done in the past. I think there's more to come there."
Indeed, Meadows' performance has not been the issue. Over parts of five Minor League seasons, he has hit .292/.359/.459 while playing all three outfield positions. Meadows is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 17 overall prospect in baseball. But he has lost valuable development time to hamstring and oblique injuries each of the past two years.
Despite the frequent setbacks, Meadows has moved within a phone call of the Majors. He began last season with Triple-A Indianapolis, where injuries limited him to 72 games, and at the end of the year, he earned a spot on Pittsburgh's 40-man roster. Meadows probably won't be ready for the big leagues when Spring Training camp breaks, but he may not be far away from that call.
First, Meadows must prove he can stay healthy and acquit himself well in Triple-A. After dominating in Double-A, he owns a .239/.306/.390 slash line over 109 Triple-A games in 2016-17. But Meadows believes he'll be healthy and ready to play up to his ability this season.
"The confidence is always going to be there. Whether it's an injury or not, I'm always going to give my best on the field," Meadows said. "I'm not the guy to say injuries have altered my performance in the past. The injuries are going to be there. Injuries are what they are. But I'm going to go on the field, when I have the opportunity, each and every day hopefully this upcoming year, to go out there and perform and be as consistent as I can."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.