With any major league team, having a utility man is a major asset. Utility men are the players that managers can count on should an injury occur. Some prominent utility men in the game right now are Ben Zobrist, Derek Dietrich, and now Joey Wendle. I have searched for the most underrated guy on the Tampa Bay Rays squad and no one represents an underdog more than Joey Versatile.
The Rays acquired Wendle in the offseason for a player to be named later. Initially, rays fans thought Wendle was going to be used mainly as a platoon to Daniel Robertson at second base. After injuries and shuffling of the lineup, Wendle is playing more than fans expected. One thing that Wendle has shown this season is his range, from playing second to left field. This season, Wendle has played second, third, short and left field. Throughout 682.4 innings played, Wendle has only committed three errors. For a guy that was supposed to be a backup, Wendle has proven that he can flash the leather.
At the plate
Wendle mainly hits to get on base but he’s shown that he has some sneaky pop in his bat. After the first half, Wendle is hitting .283 with four homers and 29 RBI’s. In his last seven games, Wendle slashed .385/.467/.808 with three homers and eight RBI’s. One of those homers was a deep fly that hit the flagpole in right at Target Field. The Rays are still figuring out the landscape of their lineup because of possible trades that may happen before the deadline. Once Hechavarria is shipped, Kevin Cash will have to figure out how he will put Adames, Robertson and Wendle in the lineup. One unique fact is that Wendle has already hit in every slot of the lineup this season, excelling most at leadoff, where he hits. 385 in 13 at bats.
Flashes of an All-Star
Wendle currently dons number 18 on the back of his uniform and his style of playing reminds me of another great number 18 on the Rays: Ben Zobrist. Given that Wendle isn’t a switch hitter, both players show their versatility and do what they can to get on base. Both were acquired via trade to Tampa and both started out in the infield before trying the outfield. Wendle isn’t at that all-star level yet. But fans have seen the gritty playing style that Wendle has on the field whether it’s diving in the outfield or busting his butt down the line on a dribbler to shortstop.