Aug 23, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays right fielder Matt Joyce (20) singles during the second inning against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Joyce Finally Doing Something About Inconsistency


Since being acquired by the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for Edwin Jackson following the 2008 season, Matt Joyce has experienced quite a few memorable runs. It began in 2010, when he rode a big second half in his first full year with the team to earn a pair of starts in the ALDS, getting a hit in both. But that was only setting the stage for 2011, when Evan Longoria went down but Joyce stepped up to carry the team, hitting to a .370/.430/.636 line with 9 home runs in April and May and even leading the AL batting race for a time. Things did not go as well after that, but he did rebound with a strong performance to finish the year. Then in 2012, he was big in the first half (.279/.387/.512 line), but wasn’t the same after an oblique injury in June. Finally in 2013, he went on another tear from mid-April to mid-June (.292/.379/.579) to emerge as the Rays’ leadoff hitter, but then he fell apart once again. Joyce has found his moments in every year with the team. His promise has been evident and everyone has been waiting for him to emerge as a star. But those transient glimpses of greatness are not enough, and even solid overall numbers belie the stretches where he has been an automatic out.

As a player with limited defensive skills and an inability to hit lefties, Matt Joyce has to mash against right-handed pitching to be a productive player. He has not done so consistently enough, and it has been frustrating for everyone involved. Joyce is firmly aware of everything that has been afflicting him. After agreeing to a one-year, $3.7 million contract to avoid arbitration with the Rays, Joyce told Marc Topkin that his goal was to be more consistent. More importantly, now he is finally doing something about it. Topkin reports that Joyce has added 20 pounds this offseason, and he hopes that will increase his power and help him survive the grind of the season. Joyce should have taken on that type of strategy years ago. Joyce has been 6’2″, 205, but the perceived athleticism that comes with that frame hasn’t helped Joyce defensively or on the basepaths. Joyce still hasn’t hit 20 home runs at any level as a pro, and adding a few more would certainly help his value. And in regards to his consistency, if his peaks and valleys each year have had anything to do with weakness as the seasons have progressed, maybe adding strength can help that as well. It is too late for Joyce to learn to hit lefties or improve his defense, but he is doing what he can to maximize the skills that he has

In 2014, Joyce will spend most of his time as a designated hitter with Wil Myers, Desmond Jennings, and David DeJesus occupying the three outfield spots. With that in mind, he took playing less in the field as an opportunity to bulk up and attempt to improve the inconsistent offense that has driven him insane the last three years. Only time will tell if it works, but Joyce has been long overdue for a change and now it is finally happening.

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7 Comments on Matt Joyce Finally Doing Something About Inconsistency

  1. George from Tarpon says:

    A little hard on Joyce on this site? As a fan who watches literally every game– this rap on his range isn’t quite fair. He will never be BJ or Carl in the outfield — but his range isn’t that bad. He’s quite adequate out there and has sure hands. Yes he doesn’t stay in versus lefty pitching but as our 4th outfielder/dh I think he stacks up well against similar players in similar positions. The outfielder on this team that has been grossly overvalued has been Sam Fuld but he is rarely criticized. I’ll take Joyce thank you.

    • Robbie_Knopf says:

      Fuld is gone, and we have acknowledged over the past few weeks why his time has come. Joyce, on the other hand, is not a terrible defender, but he has a player who has to maximize his abilities to negate his flaws against lefty pitching, and he has been unable to do that. He does show solid range, but he makes too many mistakes reading balls off the bat and does not put his arm strength to good use. Maybe Joyce is an average overall defender, but when the other corner outfielders are hitting better than him and are playable against lefties as well, that’s an issue.

  2. George from Tarpon says:

    Grew up a Reds fan– and watched my Reds give up too quickly on a sweet swinging ,slow developing outfielder who could not hit lefties named …..Paul O’Neill.

    • Robbie_Knopf says:

      Don’t give me that. O’Neill showed signs of hitting lefties the whole way through and finished with a career mark over 100 points higher than Joyce.

      • George from Tarpon says:

        That’s my point. O’Neill had a stellar career. Re-read my post. But the Reds gave up on him too soon and claimed the same issues about Joyce. Sadly I was forced to watch O’Neill have an almost HOF career…with another team. . I was there. O’Neill best year with the Reds was when he hit 28hrs. But still his Ops vs lefties was .562

        • Robbie_Knopf says:

          The Rays will not regret giving up on Joyce as much as the Reds did…mostly because O’Neill is the exception and not the rule.

          • George from Tarpon says:

            You may be right, but they are strikingly similar player this far into their careers. That’s undeniable. Its a make or break year for Joyce in 2014 as far as being an impact player or not.

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