Minor Prospect News: Matt Joyce and Josh Thole

The last two days have brought a pair of prospects at different points of development to the top level. Matt Joyce and Josh Thole are hardly franchise cornerstones, but each has a decent shot at being a league average or better player with consistent playing time. Let’s dig deeper shall we?

For Dioner Navarro, the writing has been on the wall ever since John Jaso came up and never stopped hitting. With Carl Crawford going down with a (hopefully) minor shoulder ailment and Matt Joyce’s .314/.458/.545 line over two different minor league stops, the Rays had an easy plug and play replacement.

In the very short term, Joyce should see the bulk of the left field starts until Carl Crawford returns. At that point, he should find himself on the heavy end of a fairly ridiculous job sharing scheme between RF, 2b, SS, and DH involving Ben Zobrist, Reid Brignac, Jason Bartlett, Sean Rodriguez, Willy Aybar, and Hank Blalock. Gabe Kapler is soon to throw his hat in the ring after completing a rehab stint, probably at Blalock’s expense. Despite the stiff competition, Joe Madden will probably find Joyce at bats against most right handers.

In the time since returning from his early season DL trip, Joyce’s combined line has translated to a strong .283/.410/.482 MLE, good for a .393 wOBA. Oliver projected him to be pretty unremarkable with a .339 wOBA and very limited playing time. Other projection systems are similarly inclined. I’m not sure why the projection systems think he’ll do worse than his breakout ‘08 campaign (.356 wOBA). Perhaps his 32 bad at bats in ’09 are dragging down the numbers more than I realize. For what it’s worth, my personal Best Guess Projection is calling for something in the .350-.360 range.

Switching gears to the Mets, Josh Thole was also called up to patch a brief injury problem. Catcher Rod Barajas is day to day with lower back tightness. Barajas hopes to play today, but it sounds as though the Mets will be taking their time with him.

Thole isn’t a particularly noteworthy prospect. His defense and arm both register as below average and his bat is all slap and no pop. His one tool is that contact skill which helped him post a .328 average in the Eastern League last season. In 2010 he’s compiled a .267/.353/.430 slash at AAA which translates to a .320 wOBA. That’s not bad for a catcher, but it’s not inspiring either. Oliver has him pegged for a .309 wOBA and I’m inclined to agree with that projection. The Mets will demote Thole in the coming days once Barajas shows himself to be limber again so the only thing he can do is enjoy his playing time today.

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