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A man of many gloves, VanMeter eyes '20 role

Versatile 24-year-old off to scorching start in Cactus League
March 5, 2020

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Josh VanMeter has worn many different hats and gloves in his professional career, but he’s never been deemed a “can’t miss” prospect. Having made his Major League debut 10 months ago, the versatile VanMeter turned a scorching hot Triple-A campaign into 95 appearances last season with the

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Josh VanMeter has worn many different hats and gloves in his professional career, but he’s never been deemed a “can’t miss” prospect. Having made his Major League debut 10 months ago, the versatile VanMeter turned a scorching hot Triple-A campaign into 95 appearances last season with the Reds.

Acquired by Cincinnati as a player to be named during a December 2016 deal with the Padres, VanMeter has never been ranked in the organization’s Top 30 Prospects list. But that hasn’t deterred him. VanMeter entered this year's Spring Training attempting to hit with such veracity and create the type of impact that gives the club no choice but to hand him a Major League uniform come Opening Day.

“That’s kind of what I did so well last year,” VanMeter said. “I wasn’t invited to big league spring last year and went to Triple-A last year with that mindset of, ‘I’m going to give it everything that I have and whatever happens, happens,’ so that was the kind of the thing that I came into this camp with, just kind of putting that chip on my shoulder.

“There’s a lot of really good players in here. At the end of the day, if I produce and do what I do, then there’s nothing left for me to do. It’s out of my hands. I’m just going to control what I can control and at the end of the day, whatever happens, happens.”

After going 1-for-2 with an RBI double and a walk in the Reds' 6-4 loss on Thursday against the Brewers, VanMeter is now 6-for-13 with four walks in Cactus League play.

VanMeter played in 49 games for Triple-A Louisville last season and proved via his .348/.429/.669 slash line that he was ready for the next level.

VanMeter was called up and sent back down by the Reds three times between May 5 and July 10. In his first 30 appearances, he slashed .222/.340/.289. He was once again brought up to Cincinnati on July 18 and stayed with the club for the rest of the season. Over his next 21 appearances (12 starts), VanMeter registered a 1.068 OPS with five doubles and four home runs.

Manager David Bell was forced to get creative in order to get VanMeter’s bat into the lineup, and his defensive flexibility was a near-perfect complement to where injuries and lack of production had beset the club. Most of his appearances last season in the Majors came in left field (47), but he also played 17 games at first base, 18 at second base, six at third base and two in right field.

“I’ve grown accustomed to playing all over the place and being comfortable in every spot,” VanMeter said. “I haven’t played in the outfield yet this spring, but I’m more comfortable there this year than I was last year. … I’m feeling good everywhere, for the most part.”

Manager David Bell was forced to get creative in order to get VanMeter’s bat into the lineup, and his defensive flexibility was a near-perfect complement to where injuries and lack of production had beset the club. Most of his appearances last season in the Majors came in left field (47), but he also played 17 games at first base, 18 at second base, six at third base and two in right field.

“I’ve grown accustomed to playing all over the place and being comfortable in every spot,” VanMeter said. “I haven’t played in the outfield yet this spring, but I’m more comfortable there this year than I was last year. … I’m feeling good everywhere, for the most part.”

Last season, Major League hitters swung at the first pitch of an at-bat 28.3 percent of the time. VanMeter went counter-culture to that theory, opting to swing at just 11.9 percent of first pitches. After an offseason of reflection, the left-handed hitter has decided to tinker with his approach, albeit slightly.

“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.”

Last spring, VanMeter was coming over to big league camp as a Minor League player. Now, he finds himself entrenched in a battle for a spot on the club’s bench. The club could ultimately opt to have him begin the year at Triple-A Louisville, seeing as he still has Minor League options at his disposal and hit just .159 in September last year.

“It is an important spring for him, but we also will take a really close look at what he did in significant playing time during the regular season last year at the Major League level,” Bell said. “That’ll be the bigger factor.”