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Meet The 11-Year Minor League Journeyman Who Became an Unlikely MLB Slugger

Joey Meneses had his path blocked on every team he played for. Here’s how he finally made his dream come true.

An illustration of MLB slugger Joey Meneses warming up with his bat before a game for the Washington Nationals
Credit-USA TODAY Sports/Joker Mag

4,026 days.

10 seasons, 1,390 games, and 5,006 at-bats.

That’s how long it took for Joey Meneses to get the call he spent his whole life waiting for.

A call that was long overdue.

“I’m a person, I’m a human, and sometimes this has been really tough,” he told The Washington Post.

“I mean, I am far from my family and trying to make my dream come true…Sometimes I will think: ‘What am I doing here? I’m losing time.’ Or like, ‘Why did I choose this?’ But in a day or two, I’ll come back and keep working to get there.”

In 2011, Joey Meneses signed with the Atlanta Braves as a 19-year-old prospect from Culiacan, Mexico. He hit just .206 in the Dominican Summer League that year, taking time to adjust to professional pitching.

With hard work and patience, he slowly rose through the ranks of the Braves organization.

"I’m a person, I’m a human, and sometimes this has been really tough." – a quote from Joey Meneses on his long road to MLB

After reaching Double-A in 2017, Meneses slashed .292/.360/.403 with 13 doubles and 9 homers as a 25-year-old. The first base prospect looked prime for a call-up.

But there was just one problem: Braves All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman was blocking his path.

After that season, Meneses opted for free agency and inked a minor league deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.

That year – his first at the Triple-A level – the slugger hit .311 with 23 home runs and 82 RBI. The stellar season was enough to earn him both the 2018 International League MVP and Rookie of the Year honors.

But again, there was an emerging star blocking his path. This time Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins – who won IL MVP the year before.

“If you look at his history, the teams he’s been on, he’s kind of always been behind somebody,” said Rochester Red Wings manager Matt LeCroy.

“It’s one of those positions playing first, or playing right field or left field, an offensive position, it always seemed like there was a guy in front of him. I think that’s why he’s been in the minor leagues for so long. They’ve always had somebody they’ve invested in that he won’t get the shot.”

By that point, with eight minor league seasons under his belt, the 27-year-old was at a crossroads.

The minor league lifestyle was taking a toll on him. How much longer could he play for such little pay? And how much more did he need to prove?

So in 2019, Meneses signed a one-year deal worth $950,000 with the Orix Buffaloes of Nippon Professional Baseball – the highest level of Japanese baseball that produced superstars like Ichiro Suzuki and Shohei Ohtani.

While you’d imagine a Triple-A MVP would tear up NPB pitching, that wasn’t the case for Meneses. Through 29 games, he was in and out of the lineup – batting just .206 with 4 home runs.

Then his career hit rock bottom.

He tested positive for Stanozolol which, according to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, is a “synthetic steroid that is derived from testosterone and has anabolic and androgenic properties.”

Meneses was reportedly shocked by the results. But it didn’t change the fact that he’d be suspended for an entire year. And to make matters worse, the Buffaloes voided his contract.

The winter following his suspension, Meneses returned to Mexico for another season of winter ball before COVID extinguished the entire 2020 MiLB season.

As a 28-year-old minor league journeyman with zero MLB experience, Meneses faced an uphill battle to reach the big leagues.

But he kept his head down, working toward his lifelong dream.

He resurfaced in Boston’s minor league system in 2021, where he once again posted good numbers (.284/.333/.530).

Just not good enough to get the call.

When he signed a minor league contract with the Nationals in 2022, it looked like more of the same. 14 doubles, 24 homers, and a .286/.341/.489 slash line through 96 Triple-A games.

“I am always looking for that dream and I never had the chance,” Meneses said during the season, “but I still have faith that one day, I can be there. Sometimes you are in the wrong team or in the wrong place and it’s hard to call me up. I think that’s the reason for not playing in the big leagues yet.”

On August 2nd, 2022, Joey Meneses was finally with the right team, in the right place, at the right time.

The Nationals and Padres struck a deal that Jeff Passan called “the biggest trade in the century-and-a-half-long history of Major League Baseball”. Washington traded superstar outfielder Juan Soto, alongside first baseman Josh Bell, for a boatload of prospects.

In other words, there was finally room for Joey Meneses on an MLB roster.

“It’s just amazing being in the big leagues after all those years,” Meneses told MLB Network after getting the call-up.

“It’s my dream come true and I’m just trying to take advantage and enjoy the baseball here in the big leagues.”

That night, in his MLB debut, Joey Meneses connected on his first major league hit: a 105.9 mile-per-hour shot that sailed 404 feet over the right-field fence.

It was one of seven home runs Meneses hit through his first 25 MLB games. The seventh was a walk-off shot against the A’s that gave Washington their first walk-off win of the season.

After all that time grinding in the minor leagues, how did it feel to finally reach Major League Baseball? And to have instant success?

“[I’m] very satisfied,” Meneses told reporters. “I’ve been working my whole life to get to this point and have success at the big league level, and it’s very satisfying to finally get here and be able to do what I’ve been doing.”

The 30-year-old finished his first MLB season slashing .324/.367/.563 with 14 doubles and 13 home runs. To cap it off, Meneses was named to the 2022 MLB Pipeline All-Rookie Team.

It was an “overnight” success 11 years in the making.

In an age of instant gratification, Joey Meneses reminds us that the most remarkable victories are the product of years of dedication and unwavering self-belief.

Success is not about how quickly you reach your destination. It’s about the relentless pursuit of your goals, even in the face of adversity.

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Written By

Division III baseball alum (McDaniel College) and founder of Joker Mag. Sharing underdog stories to inspire the next generation.

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