Buy ‘Em or Deny ‘Em: Has The Rays’ Joey Wendle Truly Emerged?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The Rays’ Joey Wendle was an under-the-radar productive option for fantasy owners in 2019, providing a little bit of power, a little bit of speed and strong average while failing to generate much attention:

487 At Bats
.300 Batting Average (146 Hits)
7 Home Runs
61 RBI
62 Runs
16 Stolen Bases
.354 On Base Percentage
.435 Slugging Percentage
.353 Batting Average on Balls in Play

Now the question for fantasy owners is whether or not he has the potential to grow on those numbers?  Should we chalk this up to a solid season, but not one to get overly excited about?  Let’s take a look at the numbers and try to reach a decision, though keep in mind with Tampa Bay it’s always subject to change based on their offseason maneuvering.

 

Average
This is obviously the first point to address, as it appeared to be his strongest skill last season.  He consistently hit the ball hard, with a 37.0% Hard%, and while that may not be enough to backup his BABIP it at least supports an elevated number.  The same can be said for his 32.3% fly ball rate, when coupled with enough speed (he’s been a consistent double-digit stolen base threat coming up through the minors).

One of the best marks that works in Wendle’s favor is his propensity to use the entire field:

  • Pull% – 36.0%
  • Cent% – 34.2%
  • Oppo% – 29.8%

That’s going to make him less susceptible to shifts, and when coupled with an ability to make regular contact (8.5% SwStr%) it makes the strong average more believable.  It’s possible that he’s closer to his first half mark (.283), though that number was suppressed by a bloated strikeout mark (22.6%) and not any less luck.  That leads us to ask about the strikeouts…

With an O-Swing% of 35.9% and the following Triple-A strikeout marks over the past two seasons, that seems like a believable mark:

  • 2015 – 18.4%
  • 2016 – 21.3%
  • 2017 – 16.1%

So if he was .283 with a bloated BABIP, if that drops to the .320 range and the strikeouts rise the average could really tumble.

 

Power/Speed
Wendle has never been a highly regarded speed/power threat.  While he did add 33 doubles and 6 triples in ’18, he’s routinely looked like an 8-12 HR threat.  He has a little bit more speed upside than that, but last year’s 16 SB may be close to his ceiling.

 

Conclusion
No one is going to complain about a .280/10/15 type middle infielder, and if Wendle is going to get regular AB that’s about the top of his upside.  However the average could easily fall into the .260ish range and the left-handed hitter could fall into a platoon.  That’s going to make him a tough sell, and while it’ll be interesting to watch and see how things develop this offseason he’s not a player to have significantly high hopes for at this point.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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