Q&A with Rangers 21st Rd Pick Joe Van Meter

The Texas Rangers drafted Virginia Commonwealth two-way player Joe Van Meter as a pitcher, despite his team-leading .434 batting average this season. Lone Star Dugout sat down with the 21-year-old to discuss his collegiate career and his future on the mound.

Statistically, Joe Van Meter has been the top hitter on his Virginia Commonwealth team each of the last two seasons.

In his redshirt junior campaign this season, Van Meter started all 61 games for the Rams, hitting a team-best .434 with 13 doubles, seven triples, 10 home runs, and 76 runs batted in. He also stole 14 bases in 18 attempts.

Van Meter is certainly a talented hitter. The Farmingdale, N.Y., native signed with national power Arizona State out of high school, but he transferred out after one season.

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound athlete has been a valuable position player throughout his college career not only because of his bat, but also because his versatility allows him to play any of the four positions in the infield.

Though Van Meter has proven he can produce as a hitter, he explains in the following interview that scouts began to prefer his arm last summer, when his fastball was consistently touching the mid-90s.

Van Meter's velocity wasn't quite the same during the regular season with VCU this year, but teams knew the power was in there. The right-hander logged 13 appearances this past season, going 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA. In 23.1 innings, he allowed 23 hits while walking 11 and striking out 13.

Because he has never been a full-time pitcher, Van Meter is a bit raw and he'll likely begin his career in the rookie-level Arizona League. But he has a strong arm, giving him the potential to develop into a nice relief prospect.

Lone Star Dugout caught up with the 21st round selection, who has already signed with the Rangers.

Jason Cole: What were your thoughts on being drafted by the Rangers?

Joe Van Meter: I was extremely excited. Me and my family had been kind of waiting around all day. When I heard my name being called, it was very uplifting. I'm just glad to get it over with because I'm excited to start my professional career as soon as possible. I'm extremely honored to be selected by such a prestigious team as the Texas Rangers. They've got a great history and I'm very excited about the future.

Cole: So you were listening to the conference call?

Van Meter: Yeah, we were all hanging out around the computer. I actually had left to go to my uncle's house. We had some people over––some of my family flew in and we had a little party. He lives probably five minutes from my house, and right when I got there, they told me that my name had been called. I was so pumped up.

Cole: You're listed as being from New York. Do you still live there?

Van Meter: I'm from New York––I went to high school in New York and I lived there pretty much my whole life. I went to Arizona State out of high school and redshirted my freshman year. I got to go to the College World Series and everything. It was a great experience, and I learned a lot out there.

I thought I was going to play my next year, but things didn't work out. I could have played, but not much––and I wanted to play every day. Coach [Pat] Murphy thought that too, and they were about to put this rule in place where if you transferred, you had to sit out a year––it was a new NCAA rule.

So I knew I couldn't roll the dice. And my aunt June––my mom's sister––had just gotten sick and my family had just moved down to Virginia. I wanted to go to a Virginia school to be close to her and my family. VCU had just won the conference tournament in 2007. With my family being here and them having a great program, that's pretty much how I made my way to VCU.

Cole: It seems that, for the most part, Arizona State just recruits their region. How did a guy from Long Island end up at ASU?

Van Meter: What happened was that I had a good summer ball season. That kind of put me on the map with everybody when they saw how well I did. I initially committed to Marshall. I gave a commitment to Marshall, but the coaches left, so that kind of changed everything around. And then the Arizona State thing popped up because I was exposed.

That's what I'm really excited about, because I think I'm acclimated to the lifestyle of professional baseball. I played in so many summer leagues––about four of them. And that summer––my senior summer––that's where it all started. I started over there in the Cal Ripken League, and I think I was like second in the league in hitting. That put me on the map––it helped from a confidence standpoint and I was able to commit to Arizona State.

Cole: Did you ever pitch much in high school?

Van Meter: Yes. I pitched my whole life pretty much––little league all the way up to high school my junior year. Then my dad shut me down my senior year because he wanted me to focus on hitting because that's all I was being looked at as. I just focused on my hitting, and I put the ball down for about two or three years––from my senior year of high school until the summer of my redshirt freshman year.

What happened was I picked up the ball and it's just one of those things where I was messing around with it. I always threw hard––my junior year of high school, I was probably anywhere from like 87 to 89 mph. But that summer really raised eyebrows. I think I was throwing like 90-91. And then each summer, the velocity just increased. Obviously it was leading up to this past summer, where I was like 95-96, touching 97.

Cole: The Rangers drafted you as a right-handed pitcher. At what point did scouts start talking to you about your work on the mound instead of your hitting?

Van Meter: I'd say it really started this past summer. This past summer, some scouts started to think that I had a bright future on the mound. But high school and through my first couple years of college, I think my athleticism and versatility made people think being a position player should be my route into professional baseball.

Cole: You led the Virginia Commonwealth club in hitting the last two years. Were any professional teams still talking to you about drafting you as a hitter?

Van Meter: No, not really. I guess they just see my big arm and they're willing to work with that. They see that and they think about projectability and stuff. I know I've had a great career hitting in college. Given the opportunity to hit, I'd love to. But it's just one of those situations where you never know.

Cole: Do you have a preference at all between pitching and hitting?

Van Meter: It's really just whatever to me. Whatever the Texas organization needs to do to get me to the big leagues the fastest. That's what I want to do. I want to do whatever is going to bring the most success to Texas, and that's the route I told them I want to do. They feel the same way.

Cole: Being a redshirt junior, you had the opportunity to go back to school but instead decided to sign early in the process. Can you talk about that decision?

Van Meter: I wanted to start my career. I've waited for just an opportunity, and I've gotten this opportunity with Texas taking me. I didn't think a number would hold me back from signing. I'm pretty much committed––I wanted to sign and start my career as soon as possible. I wanted to get out there playing and developing. That was my main goal.

Cole: Just to give people a feel for you on the mound, can you just talk about what kind of pitcher you are? What do you throw when you're out there?

Van Meter: I throw a four-seam fastball. When I throw it on the inside part of the plate to righties, it has some run, but not much. For the most part, it's just a standard four-seam. And then I throw kind of a spike––or like a slurve. I spike the ball and it kind of has that slider slash curveball type break. And then what has really developed this past year––I threw it a lot for contact, and that's why I guess I haven't struck out a lot of guys––was a straight changeup.

Cole: The Rangers took a two-way player a few years ago in Brennan Garr. He was in the same situation as you, as a .400 hitter in college and a hard-throwing reliever. He said he never really threw on the side in college because he was so focused on hitting. Were you doing much pitching work on the side?

Van Meter: Yeah, I was doing some work on the side. I was doing what I had to do. I definitely learned a whole lot when this thing started getting serious. When I finally realized that I have a shot of pitching at the next level, then I really started reading a bunch of stuff. I was reading Nolan Ryan books and different stuff. Not too much, but just enough to get a better perspective on it.

I was just talking with guys––guys that have been there. My uncle's next door neighbor is Tommy Greene, who pitched for the Phillies. I've hung out with him a lot. His son plays on my team and I'm over there quite a bit. I'm just picking at his brain. That's all you can do.

I feel like I'm a ballplayer, and I've got plenty of tools as far as pitching goes. I'm just excited to see what I can learn. I know I could pick up a bunch of things here in the next couple years, because I've missed out on that knowledge. But the ability is there. I'm just looking forward to learning and having a better approach with pitching––having a plan rather than just going out there and throwing.

Cole: This season was definitely the most you had pitched in college. How has your arm held up to that? Have there been any dead-arm periods?

Van Meter: To be honest, it has been okay. My arm has never thrown this much. I'm really excited because I'm just getting to focus on one thing. I'm looking forward to getting on a good throwing program so I can get my arm in shape, which it hasn't truly ever been. All these guys are so accustomed to throwing for long stretches of the season, and I've never done that. It should be interesting and good to develop that.

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