Power’s Meadows searching for balance at plate

By By Mike Whiteford
For the Gazette
KENNY KEMP | Gazette
Former first-round draft pick Austin Meadows joined the Power Saturday.
KENNY KEMP | Gazette
Greensboro’s Yefri Perez is safe at first on a bunt single as West Virginia Power second baseman Erich Weiss bobbles the ball.

Like all his counterparts in low-A baseball, Austin Meadows knows the pitfalls of swinging at pitches out of the zone.

He also knows it’s essential to strike a balance — declining the wayward pitches but attacking the hittable ones.

Meadows, who joined the Power on Saturday, turned 19 in May and, though he’s a first-round draft pick and touted as another gem in the Pittsburgh organization, faces a challenging learning curve.

“He needs to be a little bit more aggressive at the plate,’’ said Power manager Michael Ryan. “He’s been taking a lot of pitches. That was the report on him. We want to try to get him more aggressive at the plate.’’

In the Greensboro Grasshoppers’ 6-3 victory over the Power at Appalachian Power Park Sunday afternoon, Meadows grounded out three times and struck out once, leaving him 1 for 8 in two games.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound center fielder had been scheduled to join the Power out of spring training but suffered a hamstring pull, delaying his arrival, and then re-injured the hamstring, further delaying everything.

In his first few games in the South Atlantic League, Ryan noted, he’s been overly selective at the plate.

“When you try to be too fine or too perfect and stay away from pitches in the dirt,’’ said Ryan, “you get tricked by fastballs that are in the zone. Overthinking, at times, can get in the way and causes you to take a lot of pitches. I know he’s missed a lot of time, and he’s trying to get his timing and he’s taking some pitches. But with runners in scoring position, you need to drive in some runs, and you need to be aggressive.’’

Meadows, of course, has heard those things before.

“You want to be aggressive early in the count,’’ said the Georgia native. “You don’t want to go too deep in the count. You just want to be as aggressive as you can at the plate.’’

The Pirates drafted him as the No. 9 overall pick in 2013 and, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, gave him a $3 million bonus, envisioning him as a middle-of-the-order hitter for many years to come.

“He has the ability to be a difference-maker,’’ said Ryan. “He’s a very talented kid. I’m surprised by how well he runs for his size. He does everything the right way and works hard. That’s what you ask.’’

And he has the talent to remain a center fielder, said the manager.

“If his speed doesn’t go away, he’ll be a center fielder,’’ he said. “He has the ability to play the [outfield] corners too in case your center fielder in the big leagues is locked up for the next 10 years. He’s got a strong arm, very accurate. He’s got super power to all fields, a good downward path through the ball, good balance at the plate — just a recipe for a guy who can hit in the middle of the order.’’

Said Meadows: “I’ve been here two days, and I’m enjoying it, being with the guys. I’m looking forward to playing here. I’m looking forward to getting better everyday and being out here.’’

POWER POINTS: The Power, 12-13 in the second half, is off today and will travel to Hagerstown, Md., for a three-game series beginning Tuesday. ... The Power had three consecutive hits in the second inning — back-to-back doubles by Edwin Espinal and Reese McGuire and a bunt single by Erich Weiss — but only three more hits thereafter to finish with six. ... Outfielder Josh Bell, who played for the Power for parts of the 2012 and ’13 seasons, was scheduled to play in the MLB Futures Game in Minneapolis Sunday night. Bell plays at high-A Bradenton where he was a Florida State League all-star, batting .333 with nine homers and 51 RBIs. ... Meadows, whose Loganville, Ga., home is 45 minutes from Atlanta, grew up a Chipper Jones fan.

Reach Mike Whiteford at mikewhiteford@wvgazette.com.

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