Today, we continue our look at players that the Minnesota Twins could consider drafting with the #4 overall pick in next month's MLB Draft. Today we check out an uber-talented prep player from a baseball hotbed!
Who Is This Guy?
It can be argued that outfielder Austin Meadows is the top-rated high school position player in the 2013 MLB draft. It can also be argued that Austin Meadows is not the top-rated high school position player in the 2013 MLB draft from Loganville, Georgia. Depending on which scout you talk to and on which day, either Meadows (from Grayson High School) or outfielder Clint Frazier (from Loganville High School) might be ranked higher.
Georgia has been a baseball hotbed for the past several years. Twenty players have been drafted out of high school in Georgia over the last six drafts. That doesn’t include several players drafted from Peach State colleges such as Georgia, Georgia Tech and Kennesaw State. The Twins used their second round pick in 2010 on Fayetteville, Georgia, shortstop Niko Goodrum. Just last year, the Twins used the second overall pick on Appling County High School (Baxley, Georgia) outfielder Byron Buxton. Among those drafted by other teams are Jason Heyward (Braves), Zach Wheeler, Tim Beckham, Delino DeShields, Jr., and Dwight Smith, Jr. At least two more Georgia prepsters will be added to that list in 2013.
Austin Meadows, a 6-3, 215 pound outfielder, is a tremendous athlete. He has all five tools. He can hit for average and power, though these skills still need to further develop. This year, he has hit .535/.655/.930 with 14 doubles, a triple and four home runs. He has very good speed, demonstrated by his 17 stolen bases this year. He has been timed at about 6.3 seconds in the 60 yard dash. He is also known as a good center fielder. He also had nearly a 2:1 K:BB ratio this year, showing a good eye at the plate. The one question I keep hearing is whether he has the arm to stay in centerfield, so he more likely profiles in left field, though he has enough power potential that his arm might not be much of an issue.
As mentioned, Meadows is a tremendous athlete. He played basketball until his freshman season. He played football through his junior season but focused on baseball for his senior year. Scouts also like to look at a player’s genetics. Meadow's dad was a three-sport athlete in high school who went to Morehead State on a full football scholarship. He also was a walk-on in baseball. He started in both sports all four years. Meadows’ mother received a fast-pitch softball scholarship to Georgia Southern.
Who Could He Be?
Meadows is very raw, but he has the potential, the upside, to hit for average and power while being a decent outfielder whose speed and arm may push him to left field. Best case scenario, he becomes a Josh Hamilton-like talent. Jay Bruce is another player who he could be compared to. Player comps seem always to be with all-star caliber players, rightly or not; when talking about what Meadows could be, the generic answer is a middle of the lineup power threat.
How Soon Could He Be Playing In Target Field?
When the Twins took Byron Buxton with the #2 pick a year ago, there was talk about him having a fairly raw hit tool. He signed quickly enough last year to spend time in both the GCL and Elizabethton. Since Meadows is not a Boras client, it is feasible that he might not wait until the deadline to sign. If so, it’s possible that he could play for both Twins' rookie league affiliates and start 2014 in Cedar Rapids.
Because he is fairly raw, the assumption should be that he would spend all of 2014 with the Kernels. If he were to proceed up the Mauer path, he would split 2015 between Ft. Myers and New Britain and jump to the Twins in 2016. That’s the absolute best case scenario. Most likely, he would not debut until later in the 2017 season.
If The Twins Draft This Guy, They Messed Up Because…
Although the Twins traded Denard Span and Ben Revere, and Josh Willingham will be a free agent following the 2014 season, the Twins organization does have some outfield depth. Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia are already in the big leagues. Joe Benson is still in the picture. Byron Buxton and Adam Walker should end the 2013 season in Ft. Myers. Max Kepler could still develop. There is frequent talk that infield prospects such as Miguel Sano and Travis Harrison could move to the outfield. Although Best Player Available is generally conceded to be the best strategy-we don’t know what the needs of an organization will be in three or four years- outfield is not a position of need at this time.
Despite the success that the Twins have had with athletic outfielders drafted out of high school in previous drafts, there is always a lot of risk when drafting 18 year olds and giving them $4 million to sign. Meadows is raw and could develop into a star, or his skills may never reach the potential that scouts see in him. That’s the nature of the draft and it is especially true with raw high school talent.
Also, from the reports that I have read and people I have talked to, Clint Frazier may have more power potential and a better arm. There is a friendly competition between the two which may force the best out of each.
If The Twins Draft This Guy, They Nailed It Because…
Whoever they Twins draft, it will be because they have a conviction that the draftee is the best player to help the organization. The front office knows the importance of getting such high picks right. If Meadows reaches that Josh Hamilton-like potential, he is a guy you make room for on a roster. Meadows' potential is to be able to hit for high average and a lot of power. An outfield of Meadows (should he meet his potential), Buxton (should he meet his potential) and Hicks (should he meet his potential), with Arcia (should he meet his potential) DH'ing, sounds like a pretty strong group, especially if Miguel Sano and Travis Harrison can stay in the infield (and meet........).
Many thought it was a mistake when the Twins didn't draft a pitcher in the 2012 draft and instead used the #2 pick to draft a raw, athletic outfielder out of Georgia. Byron Buxton has, so far, done a great job of proving the Twins right. In 2013, it might seem to be equally silly for the Twins to consider drafting another raw, athletic outfielder (also from Georgia). If the Twins are convinced that he can be a four or five tool, difference-making type of hitter, then they absolutely should draft Meadows. If they have enough questions about whether he can reach those levels though, they should absolutely go in another direction.
From my research and discussions, I’m not convinced that he is near the same level as Byron Buxton, so I think the odds of the Twins taking him with the 4th overall pick are likely pretty low.
PREVIOUS Draft Profiles:
LHP Sean Manaea - 5/20/13