Matt Joyce-Another Local Kid Shining for the Rays

By Unknown author

I covered the trials and tribulations that led former Seminole High School star Casey Kotchman to the Rays this year, but there’s another player on the team who grew up in the area making noise.

Matt Joyce played youth baseball in Brandon Florida, just south of Tampa. He joins Chone Figgins and Ryan Raburn as active players  on major league rosters from the North Brandon Little League, based in Seffner Florida.

Joyce played for Florida Southern, a division II school that is notable for it’s collection of Frank Lloyd Architecture, tabbed “Child of the Sun.” He played on the FSC National Championship team in 2005, and that year participated in an exhibition game against the Detroit Tigers.  The Tigers must have seen something in him, because they drafted him in the 12th round of the 2005 amateur draft.

After spending three years in the Tigers’ farm system Joyce got his first taste of the big leagues on May 5th, 2008 in a loss to the Boston Red Sox. Joyce made three plate appearances, getting a walk and no hits. On May 10th against the New York Yankees Joyce recorded his first home run and RBI. He’d finish the season with 12 home runs, 33 RBI and a .252 BA. The following year he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays for Edwin Jackson, a move that FanGraphs Dave Cameron wasn’t a fan of. He compared Joyce to Jayson Werth, albeit a left-handed version.

Joyce appeared in 88 games over the next two seasons, and although his batting average hovered between the .240-.250 mark, he drew enough walks to generate a career .354 on base percentage.  This season he won a starting job in the outfield, in part due to his solid defense.  A gap hitter with decent power, so far this season he has been a pleasant surprise for the Rays, currently leading the American League with a .358 BA.

Joyce is also in a contract year after signing his third straight one year deal with the team for $427,000.  His current performance could be related to that signing, but realistically his hot start isn’t likely to continue.  Although the sampling are from portions of four seasons, Joyce likely will finish the season something like 25 HR, 85 RBI and a .265 BA.  For now, we’ll enjoy watching another local player making good for the home team.