Fantasy Baseball

Heat Check: 2019 Fantasy Baseball Josh VanMeter

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Last Wednesday marked the annual internet pilgrimage of fantasy baseball players, veteran and new. Every July 31st, we make the non-arduous trek from our beds to our phones. And the annual finger click tradition to refresh our favorite sports rumor websites in anticipation of blockbuster trades came and went.

Entering today four games below .500 and seven back NL central leading Chicago, the Cincinnati Reds faced the same but difficult decisions they seemingly always do on deadline day. Again with a glut of perceivable young talent searching for consistent playing time, familiar names like Puig and Gennett were sent packing. A promising but struggling prospect in outfielder Taylor Trammel also exited Queen City stage left last week.

Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker, Phillip Ervin, and Jose Siri. There are many potential hungry batters to feed in Cincinnati, but today’s 2019 fantasy baseball heat check, Josh VanMeter, has captured lightning in a bottle at the perfect time.

Drawing a career high four consecutive starts across three different positions entering the deadline, VanMeter’s versatility has cemented him as a fixture in the Reds lineup going forward. Over those four starts VanMeter announced his presence to the fantasy world with a fantasy boom: 13 PAs, five runs, nine hits, a double, three HRs, four RBIs, 2 BBs, and an unsuccessful steal attempt.

Are four good games for a plyer on the 27th best offense in the majors worthy of a roster spot going forward? This week we aim to answer whether Josh VanMeter is a potential season-long add for the remainder of the 2019 Fantasy Baseball season.

Heat Check: 2019 Fantasy Baseball Josh VanMeter

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LHB Josh VanMeter, 2B/3B/OF, Cincinatti Reds

Embed from Getty Images
AGE: 24, 1st MLB Season (5th Round Pick of 2013 MLB Draft by San Diego Padres)
7/29 Ownership: ESPN – 53.3%, Yahoo! – 28.8%, CBS – 35%

Standard Batting
Year Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
2013 SDP-min Rk 44 186 158 33 44 7 2 0 16 10 4 24 25 .278 .378 .348 .726 55
2014 SDP-min A 116 458 421 49 107 24 0 3 39 8 4 34 87 .254 .311 .333 .644 140
2015 SDP-min A,Rk 28 120 107 16 32 6 1 0 3 1 2 13 13 .299 .375 .374 .749 40
2016 SDP-min A+,AA 124 515 454 61 114 23 2 14 56 11 4 55 82 .251 .331 .403 .734 183
2017 CIN-min AA 132 537 475 45 121 29 1 5 54 15 3 53 100 .255 .326 .352 .678 167
2018 CIN-min AAA,AA 128 483 427 53 111 35 6 12 59 10 5 51 92 .260 .337 .454 .791 194
2019 CIN-min AAA 49 211 181 43 63 14 1 14 43 8 3 24 37 .348 .429 .669 1.097 121
2019 CIN NL 40 81 69 11 22 4 0 4 10 1 2 10 19 .319 .420 .551 .970 38
1 Yr 1 Yr 1 Yr 40 81 69 11 22 4 0 4 10 1 2 10 19 .319 .420 .551 .970 38
162 162 162 162 328 279 45 89 16 0 16 41 4 8 41 77 .319 .420 .551 .970 154
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/29/2019.

 

Way back in 2013, Josh VanMeter was Perfect Game’s top ranked high school SS in Indiana and a top 20 SS in the country. He went on to win the MVP award at Perfect Game’s 2012 WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship. VanMeter was named to the Rawlings Preseason All-American and All-Region teams that year alongside current fantasy baseball contributors Austin Meadows, Oscar Mercado, and Clint Frazier. Other future names on that list include A.J. Puk, Cavan Biggio, and Zack Collins.

As detailed last September by Fangraphs, VanMeter has had a very small margin for error during his Reds career. At his initial position of SS VanMeter’s hit/power tools were not deemed enough for a long-term MLB career at SS. After his 2016 trade to Cincinnati, the Reds fully committed to trying him at various positions outside of SS with success. At the very least, his defensive versatility was demonstrated in real time, allowing for him to continue his upward mobility through the minor leagues.

When word came through that Scooter Gennett would miss significant time with a groin injury, some speculated that VanMeter could get a trial with the big league club. Unfortunately, the call didn’t come until May 5th, and VanMeter has been mostly relegated to the bench until recently.

Heat Check: Starter Ignition

The greatest turn for VanMeter was actually not being selected for the big league squad out of Spring. The International League player of the month for April, VanMeter lit the box up with a .358 BA and 1.204 OPS. He had a Louisville April record 11 HRs, with 34 hits along with 24 runs and 28 RBIs.

Season Totals
Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
2019 Totals 40 13 81 69 11 22 4 0 4 10 1 2 10 19 .319 .420 .551 .970 38 .391 100 157
Last 7 days 5 4 16 14 5 9 1 0 3 4 0 1 2 2 .643 .688 1.357 2.045 19 .667 310 435
Last 14 days 10 6 28 24 8 12 1 0 4 6 0 1 4 4 .500 .571 1.042 1.613 25 .500 225 314
Last 28 days 12 6 32 28 8 13 2 0 4 7 0 1 4 6 .464 .531 .964 1.496 27 .500 201 282
Last 365days 40 13 81 69 11 22 4 0 4 10 1 2 10 19 .319 .420 .551 .970 38 .391 100
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/29/2019. 

 

After his May 5th call-up to the big leagues, VanMeter wasn’t anything more but fringe benchwarmer. He started his career with seven starts across 28 appearances. But opportunity has knocked recently, and the starter role seems to fit and inspire the best VanMeter has to offer.

Starter or Substitute
Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
as Starter 13 48 44 8 16 2 0 4 8 0 1 4 10 .364 .417 .682 1.098 30 .400 123 186
as Sub 27 33 25 3 6 2 0 0 2 1 1 6 9 .240 .424 .320 .744 8 .375 59 117
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/29/2019.

 

Even in a small sample size, VanMeter clearly has not shied away from seeing starting pitchers more than once in a game. If you consider his April AAA numbers, VanMeter is on an insane tear in 2019. He has decent speed that is yet to be fully displayed with the Reds. He had 8 steals in 11 attempts in April to go along with his fire batter.

Home or Away
Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
Home 23 7 45 37 8 15 1 0 3 6 1 2 6 9 .405 .511 .676 1.187 25 0 2 0 0 0 0 .480 144 211
Away 17 6 36 32 3 7 3 0 1 4 0 0 4 10 .219 .306 .406 .712 13 2 0 0 0 0 0 .286 47 91
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/29/2019.

 

Unfortunately most of his success has come at home. Great American Ball Park has always been a hitter’s heaven. This presents a a potential strong negative against picking up VanMeter. But we reiterate, his starter sample is small. Usually that’s a negative, but given that tiny sample size, you’re gambling that he continues his upward trend in the starter role. As VanMeter gains more at bats, the better he can be.

Tool Time: Josh Improvement

Taking a look at some of his advanced stats suggests that VanMeter is on a consistent path of improvement at the plate.

Across a full AA season of 132 games and 538 at bats in 2017, VanMeter had a 9.9 BB% and 18.6 K%. The following season he broke out across his first 30 games with a 19 BB% and 15.7 K% and earned a AAA promotion.

The promotion brought him 98 AAA games with 362 at bats and an abysmal 7.7 BB% and 20.2 K%. This season’s hot AAA start across 49 games and 211 at bats saw improvements to 11.4 BB% and 17.5 K%.

His current MLB season shows a rough 23.5 K%, but the rookie has a sterling 12.3 BB%. If you consider his constant improvement, can you bank on an in-season improvement at the MLB level?

One important note: VanMeter’s BAbip also showed stark improvement from year to year, as has his power.

The Verdict: A Bold Gamble Worth Taking

Recall that VanMeter’s hit and power tool were considered too weak for the SS position. But the actual plate results suggest you can’t always believe a player’s done developing at 21.

In the end, adding VanMeter to your roster is a similar gamble to adding the Kevin Newman and Danny Santana‘s of 2019. But if Santana and Newman show signs of 20/20 potential, add VanMeter to the speculation.

There is a lot of uncertainty on the waiver wire, but as Fangraphs suggested last September, who’s to say he can’t project to a Tommy La Stella like season? La Stella’s breakout before injury was shocking, but he relayed his opportunity into fantasy gold.

The Reds don’t have Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, but their lineup does pack potential punch. Despite their struggles, the potential of hitting in a young lineup with 2020 starter roles on the line is encouraging.

With the Reds deadline fire sale looming, it’s worth gambling on VanMeter and his track record of plate improvement. If his bat stays hot and with his unique multi-position eligibility (3B is shallow), he could rise to 2018 Adalberto Mondesi‘s sneaky waiver wire levels (minus the lofty steals total).

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He hasn’t been so hot at the plate since the deadline, but Josh VanMeter has done enough to merit an extended look with the Reds and your 2019 Fantasy Baseball squad.


Check out the rest of our 2019 Fantasy Baseball content from our great team of writers.

About Samir Qurashi

Samir Qurashi is from the Bay. He thinks football is a good time. You can get at him with any fantasy football questions on the tweeter: @FSPsamir and by electronica: ssq.FSP@gmail.com. He remains unspooked.

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