I promise you that I tried very hard not to write this article. After all, who wants a sleeper on a slow-burn prospect on a gutted rebuilding team? That’s not exciting. But as I keep coming back to this player, I can’t deny that something remarkable happened. He finally found something that clicked and after repeated years of toiling away in the minors; he broke through. Who is it? I am talking about career minor leaguer, Joey Meneses. No, don’t leave me yet! Let me explain.
After wallowing around rookie ball for a couple of years, Joey Meneses bottomed out after a promotion to high-A ball in 2015 within the Atlanta organization. He adjusted some and was making contact the following year but never really found any power on his way to AA. He then elected for free agency and then joined the Phillies in 2018 who assigned him to for his first taste of AAA at Lehigh Valley. And that’s where the breakthrough happened.
Under the Phillies tutelage, something finally clicked. That season across 130 games he hit .311 with 23 HR and batted in 82 runs. Joey became a run producer with power. He started elevating the ball more (+10%) and pulling it more for power. Why didn’t they promote him? He was blocked in RF by a swan-song Jose Bautista and hot-prospect-of-the-day Nick Williams (how’d that work out?), and at 1B by an ageless Carlos Santana.
Nowhere to go, he opted again for free agency and went international before returning in 2021 by signing with the Red Sox organization and there, like with the Phils, he raked. This time he plated 70 runs across 88 games. Again, showing improved elevation and pull power. And again, he was blocked. This time by newly-acquired Hunter Renfroe in RF and hot-prospect-of-the-day 1B Bobby Dalbec.
After another winter league of international ball, he signed on with the Nationals for the 2022 season. After proving himself again at the AAA level, hitting 20 HR across 96 games without anyone blocking him, he finally got his call-up and made the most of it.
He finally made it. Joey Meneses came out of the gate hot hitting a HR in his first game and didn’t relent. He mashed his way to a .324 AVG across 240 PAs in his first 56 games as a major leaguer. Not only did he hold his own, but he assaulted pitching on his way to a 156 wRC+ in that time including 65 hits in his first 50 games. He just kept hitting.
Joey didn’t just keep hitting, his new-found power translated to the majors. Across those 56 games, he maintained a 47.1% hard-hit rate and nearly a 10% barrel rate. He was making quality contact consistently. The xStats indicate that maybe he benefited a little from the smaller sample but the power was largely for real; and perhaps the most interesting part of the story, is WHERE the power went.
His power went to all fields. Not only that, Joey Meneses showed adaptability. Along with spraying power across the diamond, he was also able to poke outside pitches for singles the opposite way. That’s huge for a player trying to make it at the next level. You can’t just rely on one trick to get hits as pitchers will learn to take that away from you. You gotta adjust and Joey showed he can. What he lacked at first in natural plate discipline, he developed over time.
Finally, Joey showed he can hit all pitches respectably. Sure there will be a bit of regression, but it shouldn’t bottom out. Most importantly, he was able to keep up with changing velocities and not get tied up with big league changeups as is the case with many minor league hopefuls.
There’s a secret to Joey’s breakout though that makes him a bit different than most players, which some might see as a disadvantage. Joey Meneses spend 10 years in the minor leagues and abroad. He’s 30 years old. Yes… shame me all you want, I buried the secret. He’s not some young fresh face starting a little late; he’s the poster boy for late bloomers. But, in an era where players are getting contracts into their 40s, it shouldn’t count against him. Especially in redraft fantasy, we only care about THIS year. Joey is able to adjust to all these pitches because he’s seen so many even for his age. In his 10 years of professional baseball, he’s already amassed 1446 games and 5787 plate appearances. He just kept playing and grinding. Nolan Arenado, who’s been around forever, is a year older and has played only 1384 games.
He might have just recently made it to the big leagues, but he’s been a professional and stayed healthy for a long time. With a current ADP around 195, if you lose out on a sexier 1B/OF option consider Joey Menses as your backup for corner infielder. He’s going to hit for power and drive in runs from the middle of a Nationals lineup (projected #3 right now by Roster Resource) that doesn’t have any other options. They have every reason to give him a shot now (at a discount) while they are in the middle of a rebuild. I think the job is his until proven otherwise. I could see something like 25 HR 75+ RBI power if given 500+ ABs with an AVG around .260+.
If you want more Coolwhip to top off your baseball experience, fantasy or otherwise, you can follow me on Twitter: @CoolwhipRB.