'I love to watch him hit': Meneses (4-for-4) continues to impress

September 20th, 2022

ATLANTA -- Fans have warmed up to the flashy and stylish youngsters, like CJ Abrams, who are beginning to take over the league, but there is still a profound love for a rookie like , who is taking a silent but productive old-school approach to his first season.

"Everyone has their own style," Meneses said through interpreter Octavio Martinez. "I respect everybody's style. [Abrams] has a little different style than I do. ... He's a good kid, [and a] very good ballplayer as well. We're both rookies, and we're both trying to do our best up at this level. We have good communication, and we get along very well."

In the Nationals' 5-2 loss to the Braves on Monday at Truist Park, Abrams and Meneses were two of the five players to get a hit against Atlanta's pitching staff. Meneses was responsible for the bulk of Washington's nine hits in the game, going 4-for-4 with four singles, while Abrams, playing in his first game in his hometown, was 1-for-4. All of the tandem's hits were above 97 mph, with Meneses topping out at 104.6 mph.

"I've been playing baseball since I could walk," Abrams said. "Me and my dad dreamed of this day, being able to play against the Braves. I knew I was gonna do it, and here it is. ... It's a dream come true."

The hits have become a new normal for Meneses, as he's batting .325 with 10 doubles, nine homers, 23 RBIs, eight walks and 25 runs scored with 16 multihit games over his first 41 games in the Majors. His four hits Monday night matched a career high. And Meneses caught Braves catcher Travis d'Arnaud by surprise when the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder burst for second base in the second inning. d'Arnaud's hesitation was just enough to help Meneses tally the first stolen base of his career.

"He uses the whole field," manager Dave Martinez said. "He stays on the ball really well, not afraid to hit with two strikes. He's been doing well. He works great at-bats. I love watching him go up there. I love to watch him hit. But he also does all the right things on defense, both at first base and in the outfield."

Abrams and Meneses are fairly different players.

"I don't think Joey's very flashy," manager Dave Martinez said with a chuckle. "CJ, at times, could be a little bit, but that's the youth these days. But I love having them both."

Abrams grew up in Georgia as a highly touted prospect. He was selected with the sixth overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft after earning Georgia Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year honors that same year, his final high school season. The shortstop made his debut with the Padres on Opening Day in ‘22.

Abrams was dealt to the Nationals when Juan Soto and Josh Bell were traded to San Diego at the Trade Deadline on Aug. 2. On the same day, Meneses was called up to make his Major League debut.

New to the Majors but older in the rookie pool, the 30-year-old originally signed a Minor League deal with the Braves in 2011. It has been a long roller coaster of a career, as Meneses tallied more than 3,000 at-bats in 10 Minor League seasons before getting the opportunity in the bigs. Since arriving in August, he's shown that he can be an asset to a young team entering a rebuilding process.

"You're starting to see a lot of teams bringing up this young talent, and very good talent as well," Dave Martinez said. "It's a lot of fun. It brings a lot of energy to the game. These guys are going out there, they're getting the chance to play at the Major League level. It's been a lot of fun, and for me, it's been a lot of fun just teaching again and getting these guys to understand how to play the game [and] play the game the right way."