Since we have just over 40 days until pitchers and catchers report, we are going to preview a player a day from the 40 man roster. If projections are available from the experts, we’ll include those as well as what you can expect to see from that player in the coming season and what that player needs to work on to improve.
To start off the series, we’ll go with the player I mentioned a few days ago as the one I am most excited to watch this coming season — Matt Joyce.
His spray chart at home in 2010
162 Game Average: .243/.344/.486; 23 home runs, 72 RBI, 66 runs scored
It is no secret that the Rays are going to need power in 2011. 65 of the team’s 160 home runs from this past season are now wearing another jersey and the club has yet to sign anyone to fill any of those holes so most of the power is likely to come from within. That is why I believe Matt Joyce is a critical player for the Rays’ 2011 success.
In 2010, his .236 Isolated Power rating was the 17th best amongst all American League batters with at least 250 plate appearances. That was better than Alex Rodriguez, Adrian Beltre, Nick Swisher, and even Evan Longoria just to name a few stars. Certainly, the fact Joe Maddon only allowed him to hit against right-handed pitching helped his cause as Joyce’s .262 IsoP rating versus right-handed pitching was the 10th best in the American League. He slugged .559 in 68 at bats in July and .508 in 63 at bats in September as well.
I do not believe it is quite fair to completely write off Joyce’s ability to hit lefties because he has had an incredibly small sample size of plate appearances against them at the major league level – 60 to be exact. He’s hit .157/.267/.235 against them in that time but he also hit .323/.364/.581 in 31 at bats against lefties in Durham last season before his promotion. If you break down his at bats against lefties in the major leagues, it is the lefty specialists that are hurting his overall numbers. His .157/.267/.235 line above improves to .191/.377/.362 if you include just his 47 at bats against left-handed starting pitchers and not the 13 at bats against specialists. Against lefty starters, Joyce has walked 14 times while striking out 15 times which is actually a stronger ratio than his efforts against righties.
Joe Maddon made mention at the winter meetings last month that players were going to be given more of an opportunity to earn every day playing time and not be platooned as much and Joyce was one of the names Maddon mentioned. He is already a terrific defensive outfielder so those talents are going to earn him more at bats alone, but if he can demonstrate a consistent ability to handle left-handed pitching when given the chance, Joyce could easily double and potentially triple his home run total of ten from this past season. Joyce’s power is one of the better kept secrets on this team and 2011 will hopefully be the time that secret is let out.