Why Nick Maton was the one demoted when Detroit Tigers promoted Parker Meadows

The news of Parker Meadows‘ long-awaited promotion by the Detroit Tigers surfaced Sunday evening, not long after the Tigers’ 4-1 win over the Cleveland Guardians at Progressive Field. The 22-year-old hit .256 with 43 extra-base hits — including 19 home runs — in 113 games for Triple-A Toledo.

“We think he has a chance to help us in all facets of the game,” Tigers president of baseball operations Scott Harris said Monday. “I think the glove and his legs were a little bit ahead of the bat for most of his career. I think that was still the case early on this year. The important thing is, he didn’t back down. He faced that adversity head-on.”

The corresponding move, thus creating space for Meadows on the 26-man roster, didn’t become official until Monday afternoon; needing to swap a left-handed hitter for the lefty-hitting Meadows, the Tigers optioned infielder Nick Maton, acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies in an offseason trade, to Triple-A Toledo for the second time in the 2023 season. The 26-year-old was previously optioned to the Mud Hens on June 26, then recalled to the Tigers on July 14.

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Detroit Tigers outfielder Parker Meadows (22) is congratulated by Detroit Tigers shortstop Zack Short (59) after he hit a 3-run home run during the third inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at TD Ballpark in Dunedin, Florida, on Saturday, March 25, 2023.

Detroit Tigers outfielder Parker Meadows (22) is congratulated by Detroit Tigers shortstop Zack Short (59) after he hit a 3-run home run during the third inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at TD Ballpark in Dunedin, Florida, on Saturday, March 25, 2023.

In 2023, Maton has hit .173 with eight home runs in 93 games with the Tigers. Since his most recent recall, he posted a .213 batting average with two home runs, five walks and 12 strikeouts over 21 games in his latest stint.

“We think he needs more at-bats,” Harris said. “We also want to build a really competitive environment where it’s really tough to hone in on the 13 position players that we’re going to carry at any given time. We’re not quite there yet, but the more competitive that these decisions become, the healthier we’re going to be as an organization.”

The Tigers have four left-handed hitting outfielders: Meadows, Riley Greene, Kerry Carpenter and Akil Baddoo. Matt Vierling, a right-handed hitter, has split time between third base and the corner outfielder positions, though he has mostly played at third recently (including Monday night) to expand his defensive versatility.

Swapping one of the lefties for a right-handed hitting outfielder in Triple-A Toledo — namely multi-positional prospect Justyn-Henry Malloy — could happen at some point, too, possibly as soon as September when big-league rosters expand to 28 players.

Meadows, who forced Greene’s transition to the corner outfield positions, is expected to start in center field for all three games of the series against the Chicago Cubs at Comerica Park.

“I wanted to debut him at home because I thought that eased the transition to the big leagues for him,” Harris said, “and I also wanted to give our fans the first chance to see him in the Old English ‘D.’ “

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Meadows struggled in his first 168 plate appearances with Triple-A Toledo, as Harris mentioned. He hit .229 with three home runs and a .698 OPS from March 31 to May 14, spanning 38 games.

After that, Meadows responded by hitting .271 with 16 homers and an .875 OPS in his next 350 plate appearances, in 76 games from May 16-Aug. 19. The ability to make an adjustment — and sustain the adjustment — led to his promotion.

Now, it’s time to see if Meadows can stick around.

“The bat has answered a lot of those questions,” Harris said. “Defensively and on the bases, he was probably ready to play at this level several months ago, but we had some questions on the bat. We’re really proud of Parker for answering those questions. We think he has a chance to really compete in all facets of the game.”

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers send Nick Maton to Triple-A after Parker Meadows call

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