The Rays lost a lot of firepower this offseason in the form of Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena, though they replaced some of that production with Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon. Not all of it though, and one player expected to help pick up the slack is outfielder Matt Joyce, acquired from the Tigers for Edwin Jackson once upon a time. He put together a .361 wOBA in limited playing time last season and is a sneaky good late-round fantasy option.
Joyce, 26, has accumulated just about a full season’s worth of plate appearances in big league stints over the last three seasons (575 PA), hitting .243/.344/.486 (.356 wOBA) with 25 homers, 80 RBI, and 73 runs scored. He’s been heavily platooned, coming to the plate just 60 times against big league lefties, roughly 10% of his career PA. True to form, he has a massive split, tagging right-handers for a .372 wOBA while lefties held him to just a .237 wOBA. Fellow FanGrapher Jonah Keri and former FanGrapher R.J. Anderson tell me that Joyce will play everyday against right-handers this year, as well occasionally spot start against reverse-split lefties (a.k.a. Danks Theory).
We can’t project playing time, though the various projection systems foresee favorable rate stats…
Bill James: .258 AVG, .296 BABIP, 13.2 BB%, .227 ISO
Marcel: .250 AVG, .286 BABIP, 11.7 BB%, .208 ISO
Fans: .258 AVG, .292 BABIP, 13.5 BB%, .207 ISO
ZiPS: .236 AVG, .297 BABIP, 12.6 BB%, .184 ISO
CAIRO: .237 AVG, .277 BABIP, 13.7 BB%, .194 ISO
Joyce is just a career .275 hitter in the minors (.322 BABIP), so I wouldn’t expect anything more than a .250 AVG out of him next year just to be safe. The rates on the old player skills are damn fine and project out to something like .250/.350/.455 with upwards of 20 homers given enough at-bats. Among players with a .200+ ISO last year (min. 450 PA), just one (Andres Torres) hit less than 20 homers (he had 16 plus a ton of doubles and triples). Scott Rolen was the next lowest at exactly 20.
Tropicana Field isn’t a great park for lefty power hitters (89 HR park factor for LHB per StatCorner), but Yankee Stadium (124), Camden Yards (120), and Rogers Centre (114) are. Joyce could end up playing more than 20 games combined in those facilities, stealing back a few of the long balls he might lose at home. The Trop shouldn’t be a huge consideration when you’re thinking about adding a Rays’ player to your roster, but I figured I’d throw it out there just for discussion purposes.
Right now, Joyce is going somewhere around the 19th and 20th rounds in most leagues, undrafted in others. I love him as a sleeper third outfielder candidate in mixed leagues, moreso in AL-only setups. The only issue is playing time, so you’re going to have to watch the daily lineups like a hawk and make sure you have a competent player to sub in on days Tampa faces a lefty. It’s a small price to pay for what could be 25 homers and 80 RBI on the cheap.
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