The 2019 season is behind us and we’re taking a look back at how it played out for the major players on the Cincinnati Reds. Today we’re going to look at Josh VanMeter’s rookie season.
The Preseason Projection
Josh VanMeter was so far off of the radar that despite hitting .310/.370/.600 in the final 44 games of 2018 in Triple-A with Louisville that he didn’t even get an invitation to big league spring training in 2019. Here’s what Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections had before the season for VanMeter:
The 2019 Season
When the season began for Josh VanMeter he was in Triple-A Louisville. As noted above, he closed out 2018 at that level and did so in a big way. It was just a teaser for what was to come. He was tearing up the International League with the Louisville Bats and hit .348/.429/.669 in 49 games in the minors this season. That performance led to him getting called up and making his Major League debut in early May, and he came up to stay in July.
After killing the baseball in Triple-A and getting the call up on May 5th, Josh VanMeter only started seven games over the next six weeks for the Reds. He did play in 28 games, but did a lot of pinch hitting along the way. He got on base, showing a .347 on-base percentage in that span. But he hit just .220 and slugged just .268 in those 49 plate appearances. He was optioned back to the minors in mid-June. He returned for two days in the first week of July, but after the All-Star break he was recalled for good.
VanMeter caught fire when he came back up, hitting .438/.526/.875 in the first two weeks he was back. But he went into a slump over the next week, going just 1-14 (.071). He came out of it and from August 9th through the 26th hit .300/.354/.467 in 17 games. From August 27th through the end of the year, though, he slumped and slumped hard – hitting just .143 in 88 plate appearances. A lot of that came down to the fact that his BABIP was just .143 in that span – but it dragged down his overall line on the season in a big way.
For a guy who wasn’t even invited to spring training, the 2019 season was a good one for Josh VanMeter. Six weeks into the year he was making his Major League debut. Inconsistent playing time early, and a big slump late negated a strong middle portion of the year for the rookie. But he showed he was capable of playing in the big leagues, posting a .735 OPS with a little bit of pop, baserunning ability, solid plate discipline, and some position flexibility.
He showed big splits both against different handed pitchers as well as home and road splits. The lefty was limited against left-handed pitchers in the Majors – which is a bit strange given that he absolutely crushed them in Triple-A. He was only give 24 at-bats against lefties, going 3-24 against them. He posted a .768 OPS against right-handed pitchers while facing them 232 times. At home he hit .291/.391/.436, while on the road he hit just .186/.265/.381. The big different there is likely just random variance in his luck. At home his BABIP was .358, while on the road it was just .202.
What’s to come?
Had this article been written a month ago, the answer would have been a little bit different. But the main position for Josh VanMeter to play was second base. With Mike Moustakas being signed to play second for the next four seasons, that spot isn’t likely going to be available anytime soon. VanMeter can play first, right field, and left field, too – so there could be opportunities for him to get some action while moving around the field, but it appears that in the short term if he’s going to break into the lineup as an every day player, he’s going to need to do so as an outfielder.