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Monday, February 05, 2007

Transaction Ketchup: Brian Meadows

On February 1st, the Reds signed 30-year old RHP Brian Meadows to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training camp.

Meadows originally drafted by the Florida Marlins in the 3rd round of the 1994 amateur draft out of Charles Henderson High School in Troy, Alabama. He rose fairly quickly through their system, showing good control and the ability to keep the ball in the park, even if his strikeout numbers were unimpressive. In 1998, as a consequence of the fire sale that followed the Marlins' 1997 World Championship, a 22-year old Meadows was inserted into their rotation without having thrown a pitch above AA. Predictably, he had a rough season (11-13, 5.21 ERA), and continued to be pounded for the next four years, and yet somehow managed to remain a starter--usually in the big leagues--for Florida, Kansas City, San Diego, and Pittsburgh. The Pirates finally converted him to a reliever in 2003, where he's been modestly successful, particularly in 2004 when he maintained a 3.58 ERA over 68 appearances (78 innings).

Recent stats:
2004/PIT 78.0 5.3 2.2 0.8 0.275 3.58 3.92 3.81 8.6 53%
2005/PIT 74.7 5.3 2.5 1.0 0.300 4.58 4.26 4.16 3.3 48%
2006/TB 69.7 4.5 1.9 1.8 0.308 5.17 5.45 5.13 3.0 40%
I mistakenly indicated in a recent post that Meadows would be in contention for the #5 starting slot. This is clearly a case of me just failing to keep up on non-Cincinnati Reds ballplayers. In truth, he hasn't started a game since 2003, and I think the Reds have enough options for the rotation that he's unlikely to get much of a look for that spot. Therefore, his best chance would probably be as the 12th man in the bullpen.

In terms of his abilities, Meadows is a control specialist. His walk rates are consistently low--and unfortunately, so is his strikeout rate. When Meadows was most effective (2004), he did a great job of keeping the ball in the park (0.8 hr/9) via a 50+% ground ball percentage. However, his ground ball rate plummeted the last two years to only 40% last year. As his ground ball percentage has decreased, so too has his effectiveness.

If he can recapture whatever has changed in his ground ball ratio, Meadows might be able to help us next year. If not, he won't. Regardless of what happens, it seems likely to me that he'll start the season at AAA-Louisville and hope for some injuries to earn him a chance at the 'pen. Even so, I'd rank him behind most of the other bullpen candidates who will be at Louisville. But he does have that advantage of being a "veteran," so who knows?