About a year ago, I very happily traded Ian Stewart for Matt Joyce and Reese Havens in an ottoneu league. Joyce was just $3; Stewart was $12 (Havens was also $3 but that isn’t really relevant – this is not a story about my infatuation with MI prospects, which is how I ended up with Stewart in the first place).
I thought this was a steal but the feedback from other owners was basically, “meh.” I was pretty surprised. Sure, Stewart had been a very good player, but he was about to lose 2B eligibility and move to a position where his value was much lower (I also had Ryan Zimmerman and Jose Bautista). I had turned a guy with what I saw as questionable value and a too-high salary into a dirt cheap #2 or #3 OF. But since then, I have heard a ton about every outfielder on the Rays roster (Carl Crawford became a Red Sox, Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon became Rays, Manny became retired, Sam Fuld became a legend, Desmond Jennings became a star, BJ Upton became trade bait), but Joyce seemed to get lost in the shuffle.
In the meantime, Joyce put up another solid season. His .277/.347/.478 line was supplemented with 19 HR, 75 RBI and 69 R. He even stole 13 bases this year. And he did that in 522 plate appearances – without such a crowded outfield situation in Tampa, he probably adds 100 plate appearances, which could easily mean 3-4 more HR, 15 more RBI, 14 more R, and a couple more SB. Not too shabby.
And none of this is new for Joyce. His wRC+ exactly matches his 2010 wRC+ (129). His career triple slash is .259/.345/.482. And while the 13 SB is a jump from 4 (across three levels) last year, he did have 15 (across two levels) in 2009.
That 129 wRC+ puts him 19th among qualified OF, tied with Josh Hamilton and Andrew McCutchen. The guys right behind him: Michael Cuddyer, Josh Willingham, Nick Swisher, Josh Willingham. Yet Joyce’s salary in ottoneu leagues is, on average, $1.50 less than any of those other guys. Joyce (at $5.61) was $1.50 behind Willingham, $1.80 behind Cuddyer, $12.30 behind Swisher and more than $20 behind the rest. For basically the same production.
Part of the reason Joyce is under appreciated is because his monthly splits in 2011 were huge, at least for most of the season. His March/April OPS was .884, and he followed that up with 1.229 in May. But June (.529) and July (.653) were ugly, before he leveled off to just under .800 in August (.787) and September (.797). Much of that fluctuation was BABIP driven, as he was up over .400 his first two months, .211 and .180 the next two, and settled in a bit above .300.
But for all the jumping around, Joyce ended up right where we should have expected him to end up, and right where we should expect him to end up next year. Joyce may not be a true top 20 OF (his weak hitting against lefties is a big part of the reason he only got the 522 PA, and that doesn’t seem likely to change soon) and may not be a keeper in all formats – if you can only keep 3-5 players, Joyce very well may fall outside that group. But in ottoneu leagues, where you can keep as many guys as you want, Joyce should be kept in almost every league where he is owned, particularly considering the average price people are paying to keep him.
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