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What to expect from Meadows with Pirates

MLB.com @JonathanMayo

If it's possible to seem like it's taken forever to get to the big leagues and be young for his level simultaneously, Austin Meadows has managed to do it.

The Pirates' No. 2 and No. 42 overall prospect was taken No. 9 overall five years ago, in the 2013 Draft, and in many ways it seems like Pirates fans have been hearing his name forever. They'll finally get to see Meadows at PNC Park on Friday after he was officially called up after Starling Marte was placed on the disabled list.

If it's possible to seem like it's taken forever to get to the big leagues and be young for his level simultaneously, Austin Meadows has managed to do it.

The Pirates' No. 2 and No. 42 overall prospect was taken No. 9 overall five years ago, in the 2013 Draft, and in many ways it seems like Pirates fans have been hearing his name forever. They'll finally get to see Meadows at PNC Park on Friday after he was officially called up after Starling Marte was placed on the disabled list.

:: Complete prospect coverage ::

One of the reasons why Meadows' ascent has seemed slow has been a bit of an injury history, particularly some hamstring problems, along the way. He managed just 45 games in his first full year in 2014, 87 in 2016 and 72 a year ago. Yet, at the same time, he made it to Triple-A in 2016 and at the time of his callup, he's just 23 years old, 3.8 years younger than the average position player in the International League in 2018.

It's unclear how long Meadows will be up in the big leagues, but it would be unlike the Pirates to call up a top prospect and not give him regular playing time, especially with Sean Rodriguez currently manning center field with Marte hurt.

Despite all the time Meadows has missed developmentally, he has always hit with a solid approach at the plate and there's no reason to expect anything less from him at the highest level. He consistently has professional at-bats, keeps his strikeouts to a relative minimum and hasn't been afraid to work counts and draw walks over the course of his career, all of which has led to a career .292 average and .357 on-base percentage. He has a seven-game hitting streak going currently.

The one thing that hasn't come consistently just yet has been Meadows' power, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have any from the left side of the plate. It started to show up in 2016, when he slugged .536 (he has a career .454 SLG.), but he slipped back to .384 in 2017. He's been slugging .397 to date this year with an ISO of just .099. All of this is brought up to manage power expectations in the big leagues. Expecting quality at-bats with lots of line drives to all fields is reasonable with some extra-base ability. Over-the-fence ability is going to come, but that's more of a long-term prognosis.

Meadows' other plus tool is his speed, something that hasn't always been on display because of those hamstring issues. He has been a fairly effective base-stealer, even if he hasn't run a ton in the past, and he's shown this year that his legs are working just fine, going 8-for-9 in stolen base attempts. That speed also works in center field, the spot he's played the most often in his career, and helps him be an above-average defender there, albeit with a below-average arm.

Meadows has dedicated himself to conditioning in order to avoid the injury bug and the results have been evident. He did a lot of heavy lifting in the offseason to get himself ready physically for the long year and has stuck to his daily routine to maintain his strength and stay healthy. That's a good thing in both the short- and long-term for the Pirates. This visit might be temporary, but expect him to give fans a taste of what he'll be able to offer full-time in the near future.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Austin Meadows