The scrappy second baseman has a few moments amidst a frustrating season
2020 Stats: (W/ D-backs)
12G, 41 PA .194/.294/.333. .626 OPS, 68 OPS+. 0.2 WAR, (+1 fldg runs)
2020 Salary: League Minimum
2021 Status: Pre Arb League Minimum, Service time 1.076 Arb eligible 2023, Free Agent 2026
Josh Van Meter came over to the Diamondbacks (along with Stuart Fairchild) from Cincinnati Reds in the Archie Bradley trade on August 31st, 2020. The left hand hitter was drafted out of high school by the Padres in the 5th round of the 2013 draft. He split time equally between 2b & SS his first couple of years but was moved off Short in 2015 and has spent the majority of his time at 2b & 3b since then. He missed most of 2015 with injury.
Overall his first three seasons in the low minors were pretty mediocre. In 2016 he showed pop in for the 1st time, hitting 14 homers in 500+ at bats. But 12 of those homers came in A+ ball in the hitter friendly California League. He struggled badly when promoted to AA, hitting just .198 with 2 HR. Still, the Padres gave him a look in the Arizona Fall League, where he again again was just ok. All this earned him a trade to the Reds in December 2016.
His first couple years in the Reds organization produced more of the same, although he started flashing power again when promoted to AAA. Up until this point in 6 minor league seasons he had a career triple slash of:
2389 PA, .259/.337/.382, .718 OPS. 35 HR, 10.3% Walk Rate, 17.5%. K Rate
Then in 2019 he suddenly broke out in a huge way. In his first 30 games, 131 PA for the Toledo Mud Hens he hit an astounding .336/.431/.736 , 1.167 with 13 Home runs ! This earned him his first promotion, and he made his major league debut on May 5th, 2019. Minor League Stat Page
Things didn’t go great at first. Over 6 weeks in 28 games he received 49 PA, and hit just .220 without homering. He was sent back down, but didn’t pout, raking a .393 B.A. and 1.032 OPS . He was called up again for two games , sent down again, and finally called up for the third time that year on July 18th where he stuck for the rest of the year. From that point in 207 PA he posted a .240/.324/.437, .761 OPS slash line the rest of the way and homered 8 times
A slow start in 2020, going just 2 for 34, .059 BA resulted in him being traded for the second time in his career.
2020 with Arizona
I spent most of this article going over his history as I don’t think many of us knew a lot about him and he didn’t have much time to make an impression in Arizona. He spent 10 days at the alternate site before joining the D-backs on September 10th. He started off OK, going 3 for 11 with 2 doubles in his first three games. Manager Torey Lovullo then gave him starts in 4 consecutive games but he went just 2 for 16.
He hit his first Diamondback homer on September 25th.
Below is a brief highlight reel with a couple of nice swings and some good defensive plays. It looks like with that swing path his power is going to continue to be as a lowball hitter and he’ll have to pick his spots. In fact below the video you can see his wOBA on contact charts for 2019 and 2020. He did well on contact in middle and up in 2019, but his hard contact in 2020 was exclusively low and middle in.
Josh is a platoon player. So far in the majors all of his damage has come against right handed pitching. In his minor league career he’s occasionally posted some reverse splits, but often struggled to hit lefties as well. He’ll be 26 next season. This isn’t a 21 year old you don’t want to pigeon hole. If he’s going to give you value, the time is now while he’s cheap and he needs to be put in a position to succeed to do so.
I believe he could have a fairly significant role in 2021 IF the team decides to play Ketel Marte in centerfield. In that scenario Van Meter would have a chance to get the majority of at bats as the left hand part of a platoon at second base. He has a history of hanging in there and slowly improving and making adjustments. He plays more than competent defense at second and if he can manage to keep his average up around .250 and hit the occasional homer he could provide some “pre arb value” for the team
Right now Steamer projections have him at .249/.322/.416, with 5 homers in 162 At Bats.
It wouldn’t shock me if he managed that Batting avg and OBP, but hit with more power, say 12-15 homers in 350 at bats. He could be a pleasant surprise in that regard.
He’s a long shot, but I just have a feeling about this guy. Stay tuned.