Austin Meadows continues to rake for the Rays, who have now won six in a row

Back on April 21, the Tampa Bay Rays placed outfielder Austin Meadows on the injured list due to a sprained thumb. It was a lousy break for everyone involved, but his deactivation seemed like it would come in handy from a narrative point of view. At the time, Meadows was batting .351/.422/.676 with six home runs and three stolen bases. Surely, one figured, those numbers would regress upon his return, leaving some to wonder how much the injury had contributed.

Meadows has been back in the lineup for nearly four weeks now, and neither the injury nor regression have slowed him down. Rather, his numbers have improved since his return.

Entering Thursday, Meadows had hit .369/.453/.708 with six home runs and three more stolen bases in his 17 games since returning from the IL. He then went out against the Minnesota Twins and in five at-bats recorded two hits (including a double) and four runs batted in as part of a winning effort that gave Tampa Bay a victory for a sixth straight game. Those marks would pass for a great night for most batters; for Meadows, they cause his seasonal on-base and slugging percentages to decline. That's how you know you're in the midst of a special season.

How good has Meadows been? Consider, for added context, that his 196 wRC+ would rank second in the majors if he qualified -- behind only Cody Bellinger, the early frontrunner for the National League Most Valuable Player Award. That'll play.

Meadows, of course, was acquired last July as part of the Chris Archer trade alongside Tyler Glasnow and prospect Shane Baz. It's fair to write that trade has more than paid dividends for Tampa Bay -- and will continue to, even when (or, seemingly, if) Meadows begins to cool off.

CBS Sports Staff

R.J. Anderson joined CBS Sports in 2016. He previously wrote for Baseball Prospectus, where he contributed to five of the New York Times bestselling annuals. His work has also appeared in Newsweek and... Full Bio

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