In the run-up to the 2013 Major League Baseball amateur draft, scouts focused on a pair of top-notch prep outfielders in the state of Georgia: Clint Frazier of Loganville High School and Austin Meadows of Grayson High School, also located in Loganville. Both were certain first round picks based on their combinations of advanced physical tools and relatively polished baseball skills.
Beyond that, however, opinions were mixed on which one was actually the better prospect. Frazier was seen as a tremendous power hitter with some questions about his ability to make contact and future outfield position. Meadows was seen as having a somewhat broader tool set with fewer questions about his pure hitting and defense, but with less natural power and bat speed than Frazier.
Frazier ended up going first on draft day, fifth-overall to the Cleveland Indians, while Meadows went ninth-overall to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
With 2015 on the books, how do they look now?
Frazier got off to a slow start this year and slugged a mere .301 in April for the Lynchburg Hillcats in the High-A Carolina League. He began making adjustments in May, and by mid-season he was blistering hot and stayed that way through July and August. He hit .325/.422/.539 in the second half of the season. This performance boost was accompanied by a dramatic improvement in his ability to control the strike zone. He drew 41 walks in the second half of the season while simultaneously cutting his strikeout rate significantly, going from 72 whiffs in 258 at-bats in the first half down to 53 whiffs in 243 at-bats in the second half.
Scouting reports backed up the numbers, league observers saying that Frazier had found the right balance between patience and aggression while locking down his hitting mechanics and closing holes in his swing. Overall he hit .285/.377/.465 on the year with 36 doubles, 16 homers, 68 walks, and 125 strikeouts in 501 at-bats, wRC+ 147. He also stole 15 bases. He increased his walk rate from 10.8% in 2014 to 11.65 in 2014, but most importantly his strikeouts dropped from 29.7% to 21.3% year over year.
More walks, fewer strikeouts, more power, higher production at a more difficult level. This is exactly what Frazier needed to do and he's done it.
What about Meadows? He had a great year, too. Like Frazier he got off to a slow start in the power department, and like Frazier Meadows turned things on in July, hitting .330/.359/.441 in 279 at-bats over the second part of the campaign. Interestingly enough, Meadows got more aggressive as the season progressed rather than less aggressive like Frazier. There was some concern that Meadows was too passive early and needed to jump on hittable pitches more often. He started doing that in July; as a result his walk rate declined and his strikeout rate rose, but his production blossomed overall.
Meadows finished at .307/.357/.407 in 508 at-bats for Bradenton in the High-A Florida State League, hitting 22 doubles, seven homers, with 41 walks and 79 strikeouts plus 20 steals to his credit. His wRC+ was 134, not as good as Frazier's but still strong. Meadows also went 9-for-25 (.360) in six games in Double-A in late August.
For all the ups and downs they experienced this year, Frazier and Meadows are looking very much like the players scouts expected them to be. Frazier has more power and draws more walks, while Meadows hits for a higher average and makes more contact. Meadows steals more bases and fits well in center field; Frazier looks better in a corner but is no slug and can swipe some bases too.
Which one is the better prospect? I am partial to Frazier because of his power but they are both elite. Who do you prefer and why?