Like many in the Milky Way Galaxy, 2020 was a year to forget for Austin Meadows . His 2020 was woeful and he transitioned for a stalwart in the lineup to an interchangeable piece in the puzzle that is, and was, the Tampa Bay lineup. He played in just 36 games last year, hitting four home runs and stealing two bases. He did contract COVID-19 and the long-term effects from such a virus are unknown yet. However, I am confident that many of his struggles can be related back to effects that stemmed from being knocked down by the coronavirus.

His 11.2-percent walk rate last year was solid, and just about the only glowing remark from his 2020 stat line. Meadows’ strikeout rate jumped to 32.9-percent, after posting significantly lower marks in 2018 (20.9%) and 2019 (22.2%). Because of this, his batting average tanked to .205. From the chart below, you’ll see that the jump in punch outs is pretty easily explained.

In short…

  • Made less contact in the strike zone

  • Swung at more pitches out of the strike zone

  • Swing strike rate increased (again)

In the second half of 2019 (final 67 games of year), he hit 21 home runs, drove in 48 runs, hit .292 and posted a solid 20.6-percent strikeout rate. I was bullish on him carrying that production over into 2020, but it simply wasn’t meant to be. Now, months and months removed from the coronavirus, can Meadows return to that form? It’s very possible, and at his current price, you should be buying into it.

Meadows was excellent in the first half of 2019, but you can see in the graph above that he took it to a higher gear in the second half of the season. Unfortunately, an altered season and the coronavirus is to blame for the steep decline that you see. In terms of expected wOBA, Meadows went from well above average, to significantly below average. Even if he doesn’t enjoy a meteoric rise to his 2019 numbers, any return to normalcy puts Meadows back where he belongs. At the dish, I’m confident that Meadows will return to form and have a productive 2021 season, somewhere to the tune of 25 home runs and a .270 batting average.

One thing I am questioning is regarding his prowess on the base paths. He stole 12 bases in 2019, but was also caught seven times, and was 2-for-3 in 2020. His sprint speed was down per Baseball Savant, and that could be due to COVID-19. Fatigue was a common symptom and many have reported that it has taken quite some time to get back to where they were beforehand. In 2019, his sprint speed was in the 77th percentile, but that mark plummeted to the 41st percentile in 2020. A lot of the popular projection systems, like THE BAT, Steamer and ATC have Meadows coming in with about 10 stolen bases this season, and I think that’s a fair mark. After 2019, I saw him as a 35/15 guy, but we may need to temper expectations slightly in 2021, somewhere in the mark of 25/10 or perhaps 30/10 if things go right.

Meadows is currently going just inside the top 100 picks and consider me bullish, but he appears to be an absolute steal at his current price. There’s no expectation to return to his 2019 numbers, but he’ll have every opportunity to get close. Meadows certainly carries some upside in 2021, especially if he continues his pace from the second half of 2019. I wouldn’t draft him with the expectation that he does return to that pace, but at his current value, one should certainly welcome it.

Meadows was one of just four players in 2019 with at least 33 home runs, 12 stolen bases and a .290+ batting average. The other three were Christian Yelich , Cody Bellinger and Trevor Story . If Meadows can put together a stat line of 25-ish home runs, 10-ish stolen bases and a 270-.275 batting average, I love that value inside the top 100. If Meadows isn’t your cup of tea, so be it, but if you’re asking me, he’s a guy I’m actively targeting and am comfortable pushing up a few spots come draft day.

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