Meneses' numbers climbing as power begins to return

No, Joey Meneses hasn’t come close to duplicating his remarkable two-month debut for the Nationals late last season. But the 31-year-old hasn’t come close to falling completely flat, either.

It may have taken him a while to find his swing again, but Meneses is now producing at the plate in a manner that suggests his out-of-nowhere August and September of 2022 wasn’t a total mirage. With a four-hit, three-double, four-RBI performance Monday in a 10-3 thumping of the Mets, he raised his batting average to an even .300, his OPS to a respectable .722.

“That’s what I’m looking for,” Meneses said, via interpreter Octavio Martinez. “I’m just getting that confidence that I had last season and I’m helping the team on the offensive side.”

Meneses still isn’t hitting for a ton of power. The man who wowed the baseball world with 13 homers and a .563 slugging percentage in his first 56 major league games has hit only two balls out of the park while slugging .394 in his first 40 games this season.

But there are encouraging signs, and they keep growing in number each day. Over his last 27 games, Meneses is batting .345 with 20 RBIs and an .809 OPS. He is starting to pull the ball in the air with some consistency for the first time this year, from his go-ahead homer 10 days ago in Arizona to two of his run-scoring doubles in Monday’s win.

“He’s hitting the ball out in front a lot better,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He’s not getting beat as often. That’s a great sign.”

Perhaps he’s not hitting many homers yet, but Meneses’ 10 doubles do put him on a pace for 40 over a full season. And his 22 RBIs put him on a pace for 88. How many fans would’ve happily taken a .300 average, 40 doubles and 88 RBIs from Meneses when this season began?

An even more encouraging sign about Monday’s doubles: One of them came off a slider, another off a changeup. He actually finished with a higher slugging percentage off offspeed pitches (.594) and breaking balls (.592) last season than he did off fastballs (.538), but he entered Monday with a paltry .328 slugging percentage off breaking balls so far this season.

“When he gets ready earlier, he can get the ball out in front, especially the breaking balls,” Martinez said. “Today was a good day for him.”

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