“It took him a long time to get here, but he’s here, and he made the most of it,” Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez said of the run Joey Meneses went on once he finally got the call to come up to the majors, after 10 seasons in the minors, and 12 years total playing pro ball in the U.S., Mexico, and, briefly, Japan.
Meneses posted a .286/.341/.489 line with 14 doubles and 20 home runs in 96 games and 414 plate appearances at Triple-A in the first season in the Nats’ system before the August 2nd trade deadline, and he came up after the club dealt Juan Soto (& Josh Bell) to the San Diego Padres and went on a run which earned him a spot in the first base/outfield mix for 2023.
In 56 games and 240 PAs in the majors, Meneses went 72 for 222 (.324/.367/.563) with 14 more doubles and 13 more home runs.
“That’s only a testament to who he is and how much this game means to him,” Martinez said of the hard work Meneses put in to earn the opportunity he then took advantage of over the final two-plus months of the regular season.
“I’m looking forward to getting him up here, getting him in Spring Training, and see what he does in the full year,” the manager added. “That’s part of it. But he’s been unbelievable.
“When we first got him, and he first started hitting, I thought you know, ‘We’ll see how long it will last.’ But he proved to me that he can hit, and he understands the hitting part of it, he understands the game.”
The fifth-year manager did, however, say there’s room for improvement with the 30-year-old rookie, impressive as Meneses was at the plate, and surprisingly adequate as he was in both the outfield and at first base.
“Some things we’re going to talk to him about as we finish the season,” Martinez explained.
“Going into winter for him, and hopefully he gets a stronger, gets a little bit more agile, and then we’ll go from there.”
Martinez said he really did appreciate Meneses’s approach at the plate.
“I really think that if he stays in the middle of the field, that he’s going to continue to hit.”
“It’s really a terrific story about a guy that could always hit in his career,” GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies a month into Meneses’s big league run.
“I think that he was almost a triple crown winner in the minor leagues at times during his career, and just never got an opportunity to crack the big league roster, and at the trade deadline he was the guy we chose to come up and play for us.”
‘And he hasn’t looked back,” Rizzo added in his September 7th appearance with the Junkies, “.... and he’s been a positive influence in the clubhouse.
“And although he’s a 30-year-old rookie, he’s really taken advantage of his time here in the big leagues.”
“He’s been extremely consistent for us,” Rizzo said.
“He’s really everything that Matt LeCroy, our Triple-A manager, and De Jon Watson, our Farm Director, had said about him throughout the season.”
In his season-ending interview with reporters, the GM in D.C. talked about Meneses earning an opportunity to show what he can do with a full season of at-bats in the majors.
“You’ve got to give a tip of the cap to Joey,” Rizzo said. “He’s a guy that has grinded it out in a lot of different places, got his opportunity in the big leagues, and has done well with it. I think that when you evaluate a player, I think you evaluate his skillset and his toolset, I think that Joey, looking at him, has all the ingredients and the skillset to be a good hitter in the big leagues. He’s a guy who controls the strike zone pretty well.
“Hits offspeed pitches as good as any rookie that has come up, and I think has made at least one round of adjustments since he’s been here, and now is going to have to make another next year. But I like what I’ve seen.”
Meneses hit .319 on fastballs, .338 on breaking balls, and .313 on offspeed stuff in the big leagues this season, according to Baseball Savant. And he spread the hits around:
“He’s got a calm, cool demeanor about him,” Rizzo continued.
“I don’t think he’s overwhelmed by the early success that he’s had. And he understands that nothing is given to him, nothing is handed to him. He probably knows that better than anybody, being in the minor leagues for so long. So, we’ve met with him, he knows to come to Spring Training with a renewed zest, have a good offseason. We’ve got a specific offseason plan for him to follow, and when he comes here next February in Spring Training, to hit the ground running and continue to do what he’s doing.”