LAKELAND, Fla. — Detroit Tigers prospect Parker Meadows yanked a ball foul during live batting practice on a back field at TigerTown.
And he was overjoyed. Strange, right?
But let him explain his excitement.
“I’m early on everything,” he told me about a week ago.
He was seeing the ball and turning on pitches, getting out in front of them, yanking them foul.
And that was a wonderful sign for him.
Even if it was all so new.
“I was telling one of the guys the other day, ‘I’m actually early on some pitches in live ABs, which is a first for me,’” he told me about a week ago. “I’m usually super late right now, at this point. But right now, I’m early which I’m certainly happy with. My swing feels the best it’s ever felt. So I’m confident.”
You could hear the confidence in his voice.
You could see it in his eyes.
This was a new Parker Meadows. The one everybody has been waiting for.
He worked his butt off during the offseason, getting stronger and improving his swing, keeping it shorter. He has concentrated on his timing, trying to unleash his bat at the right time.
In the simplest of terms, he’s trying to be early to the ball, getting the bat out front.
And if he yanks balls foul in live batting practice, that’s by design; he is hoping they land in fair territory in a game.
I watched him for several days. He looked different during this minor-league minicamp, and that flowed right into an intrasquad scrimmage on Friday morning.
Facing right-hander Angel Reyes, Meadows crushed a two-RBI double down the right-field line.
Early once again.
But this time, it wasn’t foul. This time, just like he hoped, the ball landed fair.
And that’s a great sign for this prospect.
“It felt really good,” Meadows told a group of reporters after the scrimmage. “It’s been a while playing in a game. Seven innings today felt like 15 innings but we made it through. I feel good though.”
Actually, he’s been feeling good for days now.
Running his own race
Meadows was taken in the second round of the 2018 MLB draft — the one with Casey Mize.
Mize came out of college a darn near finished product, and is now pitching in Detroit.
But Meadows’ career has stalled at High-A West Michigan, where he hit .221 in 2019 and .208 in 2021.
“I think the main goal for me is just to get out of West Michigan,” Meadows told reporters Friday. “I’ve been stuck there for the past two years, and it’s tough to hit there. I’m OK with admitting that.. I’ll just work twice as hard to get out there.”
Here’s something to remember, though: Meadows was drafted out of high school and is still only 22 years old.
“What I learned is, this is a process 100%,” Meadows told me. “You know, not everybody is Riley Greene and is gonna go straight to the frickin’ big leagues.”
The comparisons with Greene are inevitable.
Both Greene and Meadows were high school prospects taken early in the draft. Both are outfielders.
And they are close friends.
But their careers have taken different paths.
‘Cracking down on it’
Greene took a rocket-ship ride through the Tigers minor-league season, and he appeared poised to make the Tigers big-league club coming out of spring training… If there was a spring training.
Meadows has been stuck, still waiting to just reach Double-A Erie. But here’s the thing to remember: Prospects develop at different rates.
And we are living in a time when everybody is so fast to give up on a kid.
Meadows still has the tools he had in 2019, when he was taken in the second round.
But he has struggled, in part, because of timing issues.
“I’ve been inconsistent at the plate, timing the pitcher and this year, I’m I’m really cracking down on it,” he told me.
Now, everything seems to be clicking for Meadows.
I know it’s early. It’s just March.
But you can see the difference.
“I’m having fun with it,” he said.
So that is why he was thrilled to yank balls foul so early in minicamp.
And why it’s so encouraging to see him do it in scrimmages. He also had an 11-pitch walk Friday, which shows his discipline, too.
He’s not just jumping out of his cleats, swinging for the fences, trying to be early.
It’s all part of his plan to get to Erie, to end these struggles.
“I don’t look at it as a set of struggles,” he said. “I look at it as learning experiences. And I feel like I’ve learned a few things. You got to be focused every pitch, not be late.”
Again, I want to stress that he’s 22 years old.
The age some kids are when they graduate from college.
Timing is a crazy part of this game. It’s crucial to hitting.
But it’s also important in the big picture. Everybody develops at a different time.
MORE OBSERVATIONS: Beau Brieske has been most impressive pitcher in minicamp
Contact Jeff Seidel: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.