Joey Meneses is a player that took the MLB by storm in 2022. The 30 year old Culiacan, Mexico native was called up for his first year in the majors last season and quickly proved himself to be a powerful bat in a lineup that desperately needed it. He put the Nationals in the spotlight very briefly despite their devastatingly poor performance as a team. The question remains however, can he do it again? Will Joey be able to serve as an offensive powerhouse for a second season, or did he catch lightning in a bottle?
Before looking at how Joey has been projected to perform in the upcoming season, first we have to see how he got here. Meneses spent most of his career in the minors and one year in Japan. After hitting very well for Triple-A Rochester, he got his shot in 2022. Joey played his first game against the NL East rival New York Mets, where he hit a home run off of Yoan López for his first major league hit. This was a sign of the offensive spectacle of Joey Meneses that would follow.
Meneses played 56 games last season with 222 ABs. During this short period, he would make good on his chance and check off all the boxes in the hitting category. Joey posted a .324 batting average and a 165 OPS+. Meneses also sent 13 balls out of the yard, and contributed a 156 wRC+. Needless to say, Joey Meneses served as a player for Nats fans to get excited about, and helped somewhat soften the blow of the Juan Soto and Josh Bell trade. He was a stud in 2022, but we have the ‘23 season to look forward to now. Luckily, we have the benefit of statistics forecasting from FanGraphs to see what Joey Meneses may look like this coming season.
Steamer Projections for 2023
Joey Meneses is projected by Steamer to have a season that is not as remarkable as his short time in 2022, however they project him to still stand out for the Nationals. Meneses is projected to have the second-highest wRC+ for Washington with a 108, two points behind Keibert Ruiz. He is also expected to sit second behind Ruiz in wOBA, where Meneses is projected to have a .326. The projections for his standard batting statistics are much lower than where he sat at the end of the ‘22 season, with a .260 average and a .447 SLG. However, if Joey lifts the ball as much as Steamer projects, Nats fans will still likely be happy with his performance. Steamer projects Meneses to hit 24 homers and drive in 84 runs. The main thorns projected to stick in Joey’s side in the upcoming season are his 22.8 K% and his low 6.2 BB%.
While there aren’t any glaring disparities between the Steamer and ZiPS projections for Joey Meneses, there are a few categories where ZiPS has forecasted his season differently. ZiPS has him hitting more home runs, with 27 total, but less RBIs with 74. He is also expected to tally more strikeouts, with a 23.4% K rate. His batting average and wOBA don’t deviate too much from Steamer’s with a .265 and a .332 respectively. The biggest difference in these two sets of projections is his wRC+, where Meneses is expected to lead the team with a 113.
Can Joey Do It Again?
There are cases to be made for and against Meneses outshining his projections in 2023. The positives of his game could easily carry over into this year if he keeps crushing the ball. He boasted a 47.1 HardHit% and a 9.9 Barrel%. Meneses also had an average exit velocity of 91.4 mph, which sat 3 mph above league average. These are areas where he could likely continue to excel, with more time over the offseason to build his strength and truly train for a full season of MLB-level pitching.
Conversely, several aspects of Meneses’ hitting approach could cause him to have a very bumpy 2023. Like many current Nats, Joey has to draw more walks this season. As mentioned before, he has a 5.5% walk rate. He will absolutely have to work on seeing and taking more pitches next season to put together a more successful offensive year. In relation to this, Meneses will also have to swing less at unhittable breaking pitches, as he had a 31.2% whiff rate against breaking balls last season.
Joey Meneses’ projections for 2023 are far from miserable. Most of them are average or slightly above. There are some pieces that he needs to work on going into the season that could truly detract from his game and cause him to possibly underperform against these projections. Still, if he fine tunes the aspects of his game that led to his incredible performance last year, Joey could surpass many expectations. No matter how it goes, Nationals fans will have their eyes on Joey Meneses in 2023.