Though he has been susceptible to peaks and valleys in 2019, Austin Meadows has been the straw that stirs the drink for the Tampa Bay Rays, who are in competition for the final Wild Card spot on the American League.
Meadows, a 2019 All-Star, is still a fairly unknown overall throughout baseball. In fact, the 8,000-fan average for the Rays likely has him still as an unknown in his home stadium as well. The folks who know Meadows are Tampa’s opponents.
After killing the ball for the first two months of the season, Meadows hit a summer slump, going just 22-for-107 in June. However, he bounced back in July and has hit 16 home runs in August and September combined. His OPS in the 75 at bats sits at 1.289 through Tuesday night.
Meadows was acquired by the Rays in the highway robbery that was the Chris Archer deal at the 2018 trade deadline. The deal yielded Tampa Meadows, Tyler Glasnow, and top 100 prospect Shane Baz.
While he has broken out in 2019, Meadow clearly did not come out of nowhere. He was a top 100 prospect basically from his beginning. He was the ninth overall pick in 2013. The athleticism and swing was apparent at every level.
The 24-year-old Meadows showed promise with the Pirates in his cup of coffee last season. Overall, his batting average was basically the same. However the power numbers have really shined this season. Even outside of his 32 home runs, Meadows has picked up an extra base hit in every 7.6 at bats. That is down from 10.5 in 2018.
In their own regard, Tommy Pham, Brandon Lowe, and Avisail Garcia have all had strong seasons. Travis d’Arnaud had a really good month. However, none have had the single impact that Meadows has. Additionally, Meadows has gotten hot again at the time that the Rays needed him the most. In the heat of that Wild Card race, Meadows’ strong play has led to a 15-6 September through Tuesday night, while trying to hold off the Cleveland Indians. This is the best full month of the season that the Rays have played, based on winning percentage.
It was announced this week that Meadows and Charlie Morton shared the team MVP honors. This seems quite accurate. The duo has led Tampa from being just three wins short of tying the franchise record with four left to play. Morton continued his strong work with the Astros to pace a pitching staff that has seen injuries all season long.
While on opposite sides of their careers, Morton has actually had a career season this year. He has topped his career high in innings, K/9, SO/W, WHIP, strikeouts, and is just two one-hundredths above his career best ERA.
Morton is a lock to start the most important game of the season for the Rays, if they are able to make it into the Wild Card game. Meadows has been doing his work to get them there and will look to continue that in the final four games of the season.