Tigers' Meadows belts go-ahead homer in AFL
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – A dreary, rain-soaked Scottsdale afternoon did not portend itself to a late power surge. That only made it that much sweeter for Parker Meadows when he connected with a go-ahead home run in the top of the ninth to deliver the Rafters a 4-2 victory over the Scorpions on Wednesday.
Meadows’ clutch gene was on full display in Salt River’s penultimate contest of the 2022 Fall League campaign, as he sat looking for a heater up 2-0 in the count. The Tigers’ No. 16 prospect sold out for a fastball as the leadoff batter of the frame and connected in a big way, stopping to admire his moonshot which went far up onto the Charro Lodge structure beyond the right-field fence at Scottsdale Stadium.
“It felt good off the bat,” Meadows said. “I threw a little [slow, showy celebration] in there -- I don’t do that very often. But we like to keep it fun, keep it loose around here. So just having fun with it.”
The moment almost never came for Meadows. Rain deluged the usually sunny oasis in the fourth, forcing a delay that lasted over half an hour; just a bit farther west in the Valley of the Sun, Peoria and Surprise had their contest canceled over weather complications.
But the first at-bat upon a return to action saw Meadows slash an RBI single back up the middle that nearly toppled the pitcher, knotting the game at 2 apiece. No high-grade preparations were required in his down time; the 23-year-old merely played a mobile game on his phone, part of that fun and loose Salt River structure.
After going deep just once in his first 21 outings with Salt River, Meadows has tied a satisfying knot around his year with homers on back-to-back days. He maintains that he has been patient and stuck to his routine in an attempt to cap the year on the best note possible.
The 2022 campaign has been a significant step forward for Meadows, who saw his older brother, Austin, a former American League All-Star, join the organization in an April deal. Parker quickly graduated from High-A West Michigan that same month and spent the remainder of the season at Double-A Erie, where he swatted 16 roundtrippers and posted a .466 slugging percentage. His 20 total homers far and away set a new pro best.
“Just working hard in the offseason,” Meadows said of where his power gains stemmed from. “Getting stronger and just getting with my hitting guy. We made little tweaks and it paid off.”
Even more promising than the sizable step forward in extra-base hits is that Meadows drastically slashed his K rate to just 18.4% in 113 games with Erie. His walk rate also rose to 10.6% in that period, which helped him finish tied for third in the Eastern League in wRAA (13.8) and fourth in wRC+ (123) among batters with at least 400 plate appearances.
After a slow start to the fall circuit, Meadows’ production has found its level: through 23 games, he has delivered a .768 OPS and is fourth among Salt River batters with 29 total bases.
“This whole thing has been fun,” Meadows said. “We’re around a lot of talent, a lot of future big leaguers. Just learning from those guys. They’re all good people and it’s been fun. The Fall League is definitely a blessing, for sure.”
After Meadows’ homer vaulted the Rafters ahead, Tigers No. 25 prospect Tyler Mattison was tasked with locking down the contest. The 6-foot-4 righty responded by striking out three of the four batters he faced, working around a single to notch his first AFL save. A fourth-round selection in the 2021 Draft, Mattison’s mid-90s heater has played up over the past six weeks, leading to 19 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings.