Tigers outfielder Austin Meadows had a frustrating season in 2022, missing time due to vertigo-like symptoms, COVID-19, strains in each of his Achilles tendons and mental health struggles that he was open about. He was only able to get into 36 games on the year and had diminished results when on the field. However, he recently spoke with Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press and seems to be in a good place for 2023.
“I’m right where I want to be mentally, and I’m right where I want to be physically,” Meadows says. “This offseason has been amazing with having our daughter (Adelynne), being in a much better place mentally and being in a much better physical shape. Everything is starting to go in the right direction.” Meadows provides specifics of how he got into a better place with his anxiety by getting a therapy team in place, and also with his body, losing around 20 pounds this offseason. “For me, I didn’t play, so I gained weight towards the end of the season last year. To be able to lose fat and gain muscle but still lose weight is always a challenge, but I just got after it, put my head down and tried to put myself in the best spot I can be. That 225-230 is where I feel my best, and I’m ready to roll.”
The fact that Meadows has got himself into a better place both mentally and physically is surely great news to Tigers’ fans, both for Meadows as a human being and for the fortunes of the baseball team. In his brief time with the club last year, he hit .250/.347/.328 without a single home run in 147 plate appearances. His strong on-base percentage helped him nudge over the league average mark, as his wRC+ last year was 101. But that’s a noticeable drop from his 2019 peak, when he hit 33 homers and slashed .291/.364/.588 for a wRC+ of 144.
Various Detroit players suffered through injuries or swoons in performance in 2022 and the club suffered greatly. Though some predicted them to emerge from their rebuild with a young core and snag a postseason spot, they ended up falling down in the standings and finishing 66-96. Meadows will be one of a group of players looking for a rebound in 2023 to help the club get back on track. Despite the down year, Meadows has a strong enough track record that he’ll get plenty of opportunity in an unsettled outfield mix where he and Riley Greene should be the two locks for regular playing time, with Akil Baddoo, Kerry Carpenter, Matt Vierling and others battling for roles as well.
With Meadows seeming to be in a good place all around, it’s possible he can get back to being his old self, which will be good for him and the Tigers. “I do, I really do,” Meadows said, when asked if he thought he could get back to being an All-Star caliber player. “If I continue to take care of myself on and off the field and stay healthy, I think good things will happen.”