It is rather unfortunate that Joey Wendle plays in such a small market. The fact that the rookie second baseman was not named one of the finalists for the Rookie of the Year award voted on by the BBWAA leaves me dumbfounded.
After being traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in December of 2017 for a player to be named later, Wendle became just another name on the back of a jersey, fighting and scrapping his way through spring training on the practice fields behind Charlotte Sports Park.
What would take place over the next 7 months would shock the Tampa Bay Rays, their fans, and the rest of baseball. Joey Wendle became the catalyst for a Rays team that would go on to win 90 games in 2018. Scrapping and clawing his way into the everyday lineup just as he scrapped and clawed his way on to the opening day roster.
He would lead the way at the plate hitting .300 all while providing stellar defense wherever it was asked of him. Making appearances at second and third base, shortstop, and even in left and right field, Joey Wendle was the glue that held the 2018 Rays together. He was scrappy, putting together quality at bats every time he stepped to the plate. He was quiet, keeping his head down while getting the job done. Most importantly though, he was a winner, leading all Rays position players in WAR.
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If only he had played in a larger market, maybe, just maybe, Joey Wendle would have been recognized as one of the top rookies in 2018. There is no denying that Shohei Ohtani was fantastic for the Angles, but what I can deny is that Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres were more outstanding rookies than our very own Joey Wendle.
Miguel Andujar was considered to be one of the favorites to win the award along with Ohtani and the third finalist spot came down to Gleyber and Joey. Instead of debating if Wendle was better than Gleyber, which he was, I want to discuss the fact that Wendle was better than one of the favorites, Andujar.
Andujar was very good at the plate, hitting 27 bombs and driving in 92. Wendle was also very good at the plate, hitting .300 and driving in 61. Wendle had a better OBP and Andujar had a better SLG. Their wRC+ was is only separated by 12 points, Andujar’s being 128 and Wendle’s being 116, both being above average.
What separates these two players is their ability on defense. In 478 chances spread across 4 different positions, Wendle committed 8 errors total. In just over half of those chances, 286, Andujar made 15 errors.
Of the 94 fielders who accumulated at least 1000 innings on defense, Andujar had the second least defensive runs saved, -25. He was the worst defensive third baseman in baseball by 12 DRS. Joey Wendle on the other hand, who also accumulated over 1000 innings on defense save 5 defensive runs. In total, Joey Wendle was 30 DRS better than Miguel Andujar on defense.
Andujar may have a case for most outstanding rookie at the plate, but he certainly does not have a case for the most outstanding rookie in 2018. His defense was a liability for the Yankees, Joey Wendle’s defense was a plus for the Rays.
Miguel Andujar may have hit more homers and may have been the flashier choice for writers and for Major League Baseball but he isn’t the right choice to be one of the three finalists. Joey Wendle may have not hit 20 bombs, but he was the better baseball payer of the two. Not the better power hitter, or the better run producer, no, the better all around baseball player.
Joey Wendle was the complete package for the Tampa Bay Rays, a .300 hitter who can drive in runs and still provide effective defense. He led all AL rookies who had at least 300 plate appearances in batting average and stolen bases. He was second in OBP and sixth in SLG, despite only hitting 6 bombs. He had the 4th best wRC+ among qualified rookies as well.
I am not saying that Joey Wendle should be announced as the Rookie of the Year next week, but I am saying that he had a more outstanding rookie season than Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres, two of the three finalists announced Monday night.
Joey Wendle was snubbed as a finalist for the award, partly because he plays in a small market and partly because, well, he just simply isn’t flashy enough of a finalist. It truly is a shame that he wasn’t recognized as one of the three best American League rookies in 2018, because if we really think look at it, Wendle was clearly one of the top three…honestly, he was one of the top two.
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But, if I had to guess, Joey Wendle will show up to spring training in a few short months with the same attitude he arrived with earlier this year, scrappy, strong-willed, and determined. Heck, he may even show up scrappier, and this time with a chip on his shoulder.