The game of baseball is one of adjustments. You’ve heard it over and over – from managers, coaches, and players for your entire life. During the 2018 season Josh VanMeter began to make some adjustments at the plate and over the last 44 games of the year in Triple-A with the Louisville Bats he hit .310/.370/.600. And that was before the juiced baseball debacle of 2019. That was followed up with a .336/.431/.736 line in the first 30 games of 2019 with the Bats before he was called up in early May and sat on the bench for most of the next month-and-a-half, getting just seven starts in that time.

He’d go back-and-forth between Triple-A and the majors from mid-June through mid-July before being called up on the 17th of July and sticking around the rest of the year. VanMeter was solid, but unspectacular in that stretch as he got more consistent playing time. The power was there as he had 10 doubles, a triple, and eight homers in 207 plate appearances while hitting .240/.324/.437. He also went 17-for-23 in stolen base attempts between the two levels during the season. Combine that with his ability to play third, second, first, left, and right field and he’s got a good profile for a utility player at worst – but a chance to make more impact if he can hit for a little better average.

It might be time for another adjustment for Josh VanMeter, and as he told Jesse Borek of MLB.com, it might be time to get a little bit more aggressive.

One of the things that I want to do better is be a little more aggressive, especially early in the count,” VanMeter said. “I think that there were a lot of times last year where I was too passive. But it’s also kind of what got me there, from my experience at Triple-A. Last year, I was a patient hitter and took advantage of mistakes. Obviously, in the big leagues, there’s not as many mistakes. I definitely got to be more ready for pitch one than I was last year.

His walk rate of 11.2% in the Major Leagues matched up to his 11.4% that he had in Louisville. Both rates are well above-average. VanMeter didn’t expand the strikezone often, chasing non-strikes just 25% of the time in the Major Leagues last season – the league average rate was 31.6%. But as he notes, he needs to be more ready for the first pitch than he has been.

VanMeter saw a lower than average first pitch strike rate, just 57.7% (60.9% league average). But he also only swung at the first pitch 12% of the time. The average rate was more than twice that in Major League Baseball last season, coming in at just over 28% of the time. For the now 24-year-old VanMeter, swinging on the first pitch was great – he hit .462/.500/1.077 on the first pitch at a plate appearance with two doubles and two home runs among his six hits in 13 at-bats. That’s significantly better than the league as a whole, but the rest of the league crushed the first pitch, too – hitting .354/.364/.630. We should be sure to note, though, that these first pitch numbers only include times when contact was made.

Based on what we know about Josh VanMeter, understanding the strikezone is a strength of his. He’s walked at a good clip in the Majors and upper levels of the minors. And while his time in the big leagues is limited somewhat, the information we do have shows that he doesn’t chase non-strikes with any sort of frequency. But we do know that he swings at strikes at a much lower than average rate – just 58.6% of the time, which was the 15th lowest rate among 360 players with at least 200 plate appearances in 2019. The league average rate is 68.5%.

We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out. And it may not even play out in Cincinnati immediately for VanMeter, who is battling for a spot on the roster could wind up in Triple-A if he doesn’t grab a spot on the 26-man roster. But perhaps a slightly more aggressive approach could work out for the Indiana native who was one of the more patient hitters in the game in 2019.

35 Responses

  1. Steven Schoenbaechler

    JVM is another one who has gotten lost, I believe, in the talk of who’s going to make the team. I believe he would bat better with more playing time. People may forget, he was up here last year before Aquino was.

    • Tomn

      I think he’s going to be a very good hitter. It would help him if he could focus on a given position. Right field? Unless Aquino can show that august wasn’t a fluke. But for regular ABs, he probably will wind up at AAA.

      • Aaron Bradley

        Personally I thought JVM looked terrible in the outfield (mostly left) last year. He misplayed some balls, wasn’t sure where to throw the ball, stuff like that. I get that he has usefulness as a utility player but the team is stacked with better outfielders right now. Even Winker plays much better defense. JVM is a second baseman or maybe even first base. He is probably best served playing daily at AAA and getting hot again for when an injury invariably occurs. He could also be a solid trade chip for someone like Lindor near the deadline.

      • Redsvol

        solid trade chips don’t go to AAA to play a utility infielder role because they aren’t quite good enough to play a position in the majors. He’s a bench player and all teams need some good bench players.

  2. Big Ed

    I like what Van Meter says about the adjustment to MLB – that there are much fewer “mistake” pitches at the MLB level and that he needs to be ready to jump on them more.

    Van Meter’s OPS last year was .735, and fellow rookie Nick Senzel’s was .742. They are only 3 months apart. Senzel has more upside, but Van Meter has a chance to have a very good MLB career.

    • RojoBenjy

      Agreed he has a chance but will Cincinnati baseball bigwigs give it to him?

  3. jim walker

    JVM’s lack of OF experience really shown through last season as he got his OF trial by fire at the MLB level . Let’s hope if he goes to AAA that he gets a lot of OF playing time versus IF time.

    • Sliotar

      Yes, good call, Jim.

      -Did not handle the OF well
      -Went 3 for 24 vs. LHP (small sample size, sure, but, another Reds platoon guy already?)
      -Turns 25 in a couple of days. Getting close already (like Senzel) to peak MLB age.

      I feel for VanMeter/Ervin/Winker etc., whose careers have been caught up in a botched re-build, then avoiding a 5th straight 90-loss season, now a short-term “all in” phase.

      All of these guys should have had extended runs at the MLB level before now, if only to figure out what their ceilings are.

      The way it is now … it feels like their will be little chance for JVM or any of those dudes to “learn their position” while the Reds are trying to make the playoffs.

      All You Can Eat Innings at Louisville and wait for some of the over-30 position players to move on.

      • Sliotar

        Big game for the Blue Jackets … as tough as it gets.

        At Edmonton, who is on fire … second half of the nationwide doubleheader on Hockey Night in Canada … both teams need the points to make the playoffs.

      • jim walker

        @solitar Also a big hockey game in NYC tonight. If Isles take down the Hurricanes in regulation, it really enhances CBJ chances versus Canes. Of course CBJ really can’t lose over that game either way because even in a worst case scenario of OT, somebody loses a point which equates to half a game in hand to CBJ lost.

        But if Canes lose in regulation and CBJ somehow picks up a point or 2 in Edmonton, then that’s really worth being happy about.

      • RojoBenjy

        Sliotar-

        Great post. I echo it all, especially, “ I feel for VanMeter/Ervin/Winker etc., whose careers have been caught up in a botched re-build, then avoiding a 5th straight 90-loss season, now a short-term “all in” phase.

        All of these guys should have had extended runs at the MLB level before now, if only to figure out what their ceilings are.“

        It’s been maddening.

      • Colorado Red

        GO Avs.
        Good shot this year.
        Would love to play the Jackets in the post season.

      • JB

        Sorry guys but I hope Jackets lose. Rangers have the Devils tonight and could move within a point of you with a game in hand.

      • Tomn

        Agreed, JVM looked bad in the OF. I have to believe it’s experience or lack thereof. He seems to be enough of an athlete to learn the OF. We are loaded with OFs though, so it may be either utility role for him or AAA. I’d hate to see the Reds trade him unless as a package for a star.

      • Redsvol

        A little context please – which outfield position would they have played? 2017 & 2018 outfield was basically Adam Duvall, billy Hamilton and Scot Schebler, I’m sure those 3 could have stood with less at bats but hard to argue with Duvall’s 31 HR season in 2017 and Schebler’s 30 HR in 2017. And Ervin and Winker in CF is a joke. In 2018 Duvall was traded and Schebler was injured – opening the door for significant run time for Winker and Ervin. Maybe they should have seized the opportunities given in 2018 & 2019? Lots of players do. JVM showed up in 2019.

      • RojoBenjy

        RedsVol-

        In 2019, once it was clear that Kemp was out to lunch and Schebler was toast, Ervin and Winker should have been full-time LF platoon. And after Puig was traded, Ervin the starting RF, and Winker to LF.

        In 2019, once it was clear that Dietrich was a one month wonder and that Peraza swung at every bad pitch and lead the universe in weak contact, JVM should have played every game at 2B.

        The reasons? By May, 2019 was a wash, and should have been used to find out what exactly Ervin, Winker, and JVM are. It would have clarified a lot about roster construction.

      • Roger Garrett

        You pointed out one of the biggest issues I have always had when you said all should have had extended runs at the MLB level.Reds blew it because 70 wins were more important then 68 and watching older guys play were more important then giving young guys long looks.Somebody in the front office gave speed guys Billy and Peraza 5 years but these are the only exceptions.Now we have a bunch of guys with no options left such as Bob Steve,Reed ,Garrett,Ervin etc.JVM when he was called up should have been put at second but no we had Peraza and Dietrich taking playing time away from him.One guy with 7 years and the other with 4 years in the big leagues.Again just because somebody felt they could get us another win or two.Peraza is finally gone and DD is back again because well just like last year nobody else wanted him.

      • Redsvol

        so there was this guy, Aquino I think was his name, that started playing right after the trade deadline. He played a pretty good RF for the Reds. He was young and was given an extended run at the MLB level to see what he could do. And he has an option left for this year…….stupid front office.

      • RojoBenjy

        @Redsvol-

        That’s one out of four they got right.

  4. AirborneJayJay

    I really like JIM. I just wish the Reds upper management had a plan for him. JVM and Blandino are naking some noise this spring that they deserve to be MLB players. Not stuck at AAA.
    This new “aggressive” approach suggests that the first pitch you see will be the best pitch you see in an at bat. The pitcher always wants to get the count in his favor at 0-1 after the first pitch so maybe there is some validity to that. But last especially, it was very discouraging watching Reds hitter after hitter swim g at the first pitch and hit a lazy pop up. Many times with runners in scoring position. I believe the Reds led the universe in stranding runners in scoring position. Last year I thought many of the Reds hitters were way too aggressive on the first pitch. I just attributed it to the now gone hitting coach.

  5. tomn

    I am having trouble logging in and / or joining. It doesn’t recognize what I thought was my username. It doesn’t recognize any of my email addresses. The ‘join’ option never appears. Only Login. I am lost as to how to join/login and be remembered, though it seems I can still leave comments.

    • Tomn

      When I hover over the little symbol in the top right, Login | Join appears below. When I move my pointer to click on one of them, they both go away. Using Chrome if it makes any difference, which I doubt.

    • Doug Gray

      Unless you write for the site, there’s no logging in anymore. We made that change well over a year ago.

      • Tomn

        thanks. I either wasn’t aware or forgot.

      • Doug Gray

        It was just a way to keep the site from slowing down a little bit. Fewer people logged in and hogging down the database, the better.

      • RojoBenjy

        Doug-

        Lololol thanks for the Coke!

    • RojoBenjy

      If you’re speaking of this site, then I can tell you what Doug has shared—that feature is for the site administrators. The only way for others to post is to go through the motions each time.

  6. Aaron B.

    Dietrich was not a one month wonder as commented above. He was absolutely carry ing the team without a full time position for 2 solid months… dude was straight out pimpin home runs and bringing much needed energy to what had previously been a team lacking balls/confidence. Just go back and watch his body language when he was on fire. He is probably the main reason we passed the Pirates in the standings. Then the league caught on that you can’t pitch to him and just gave him nothing and started hitting him with regularity. He still posted good OBP as a result. he needed and needs protection behind him so they are forced to pitch to him… hopefully with the new additions that happens. I find it inexplicable that a guy that had 17 home runs in such dominating fashion in mid May had a hard time finding a major league job in the off season but I am happy he is still with this club and they must keep him in my mind he is already showing the swagger in early pre season. Love the guy for sure my favorite Red player right now just cause I always like those guys on the cusp like he is. He deserves a shot.

    • Aaron B.

      And I should add: if you recall those first two months last year no one was hitting on the club… up and down the staring lineup they were all pathetic. Dietrich was absolutely carrying the team and I don’t see how you can forget that and give up on him.

      • VaRedsFan

        Exactly right Aaron. He had so many game deciding hits for 2 months. The injury seemed to derail his hot start.

  7. Steve Schoenbaechler

    Two things here. . .

    First, from what I can tell, there seems to be many guys showing some good stuff to get a position on the main club. It could make people wonder. . .

    Second, I’m hearing different stuff on here about Senzel. So, I thought I would post a survey/inquiry. . .

    How do you think Senzel will be played once approved for regular play?
    – Do you think Senzel will be the regular CF? Or. . .
    – Do you think Senzel will get the spot starts across the IF and OF?

    I have to say I side with the latter. With all the smart moves this FO has made so far the last 2 years, I can’t see the former. I mean, with the former, that means Shogo was signed to sit on the bench? Even if Shogo gets spot starts in the other OF positions, you are going to sign, what was it, $7 million as a spot starter with a history of high OBP when our biggest weakness last season was getting people on base? It just doesn’t make sense. Especially when we have a plethora of OF’s who can do what Shogo would be doing with the spot starting.

    But, with all the positions that Senzel can play now, he can get spot starts in a lot more positions and, thus, start more than Shogo would as a spot starter. The only thing I don’t like about this is, Senzel would have to prep for multiple positions defensively. How much work would he get to work on his offense?

  8. Steve Schoenbaechler

    I tell you, it seems like there are several players trying to convince some people to consider them for the major league team. JVM is one of them, batting .400/.526/.667/1.193 so far.

    Similar with Blandino, .389/.500/.833/1.333.

    Among others.

    And, with pitchers. . .

    Antone, 1.42/.174/0,95 (ERA/BA/WHIP)

    Kuhnel, 0.00/.133/0.64

    Romano, 0.00, 0.00, 0.46

    Among others.

    It could cause for some interesting decisions later. Letting players go? Trades?