Detroit Tigers Top 20 Prospects: No. 11 Parker Meadows
Welcome to the first-ever installment of the Motor City Bengals Top 20 Detroit Tigers prospects. The MCB staff has compiled our prospect lists and we will be releasing our consensus rankings, along with a breakdown of each player, in a series of articles in the coming days. In this article, we look at Parker Meadows, our number 11 prospect.
The Detroit Tigers selected Parker Meadows with their second-round pick in the 2018 draft and immediately boosted expectations for the young outfielder by giving him a $2.5M signing bonus, nearly double the slot value of the pick. Of course, expectations for Parker were already high after his brother, Austin Meadows, was in the midst of a breakout season with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Compared to his brother, Detroit Tigers fans saw even greater physical projection for Parker. Standing at 6’5 205 with plenty of strength to put on, it was easy to dream on Parker as a plus-speed, plus-power mammoth of a center fielder who could one day patrol the confines of Comerica Park.
Meadows, also known by some in the Detroit Tigers organization as “baby giraffe”, showed flashes of his power/speed combination in his debut season in 2018, smashing four home runs and stealing three bases in 28 games on his way to graduating into A ball at the age of 18. 2019, however, was not as kind to him, as he struggled mightily with strikeouts (23%) and rarely barreled up the baseball at the plate. He did hit seven home runs and steal 14 bases at West Michigan, which has allowed him to stick around in the low teens on many Tigers prospect lists.
Parker Meadows has easy plus speed. At the Perfect Game showcase in 2018, Meadows ran the 60-yard dash in 6.51 seconds, putting him in the 99th percentile of all prospects at the showcase. His extremely long legs allow him to glide around in the outfield with surprisingly quick acceleration for someone his size and it’s easy to see him translating it into strong outfield defense. He may lose a bit of his speed as his body fills out, but he will continue to be a threat on the base paths.
Meadows also has above-average raw power and has shown the ability to tap into it in spurts. It will be interesting to see what Meadows looks like physically coming into the 2021 season. The potential is there for him to put on muscle and really become a power threat in games, even if his hit tool is lacking right now.
It’s unclear at this point whether Meadows can remain in center field long term, but his defense should be a positive. He needs to improve his reads and angles from what we saw in West Michigan, but he has the speed and the arm to be an above-average outfielder.
Parker Meadows has been held back by his contact issues at the plate. His swing looks inconsistent and awkward at times. He is clearly not comfortable yet in his long, lanky body and it’s clear that he lacks rhythm during at-bats.
Even when Meadows has made contact, he has struggled to hit the ball hard. Despite tapping into his raw power on occasion, the overwhelming majority of his contact is soft fly balls or infield dribblers.
His patient approach at the plate is not necessarily a weakness – he has walked at an average clip thus far in his career. However, his pitch selection could use some work. If he is able to increase his walk rate even to above-average, it could help take some pressure off of his strikeout issues.
Despite a down year in 2019, Parker Meadows still has tantalizing physical tools and projection that make him an interesting prospect. The high strikeout rate and inability to hit the ball hard in A ball are certainly red flags, but he was also a 19-year-old getting his first taste of full-season action.
His raw power/speed profile is a common preference for MLB scouts and, combined with his average patience at the plate, could help take some pressure off his lagging hit tool as he develops. The development of the hit tool still remains key to his success, though. He will have to be far better at making consistent, hard contact to allow his strengths to really shine.
2021 is an extremely important season for Parker Meadows. If he shows improved bat control and pitch recognition against middle-minors competition, he could easily vault into some top 100 prospect lists. However, if he continues to struggle with making contact and hitting the ball hard, he could be labeled a “tools, but no production” prospect.