Welcome to the wacky world of Tampa Bay second basemen. Yes, these are the Tampa Bay Rays and thanks to the magic that was Joe Maddon and the cunning that is Kevin Cash, the middle infield assignments at Tropicana Field have been nothing short of lively. With my Rays-loving heart leading the way, here are this fan’s picks from worst to first of the High-Five of Tampa Bay second basemen.
The second baseman who holds spot No. 3 is a no-nonsense guy, a straight shooter, a 28-year old rookie who just finished 4th in the AL Rookie of the Year voting, the Tampa Bay Rays 2018 Heart and Hustle award winner and a man who is packing a punch of promise for the Rays in 2019. Yes, No. 3 is Joey Wendle. Now, let’s get to loving on the guy.
No. 3: Joey Wendle
The Tampa Bay Numbers
Home runs: 7
Batting average: .300
Games played at 2B: 101
Fielding percentage: .989
Joey Wendle arrived in Tampa Bay in December 2017 via a trade for a player to be named later with the Oakland Athletics.
The 27-year old second baseman had only 36 major league baseball games under his belt when he joined the Rays, not a lot for a guy his age. Wendle had been drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the sixth round of the 2012 draft. He worked his way through the minor league system until being traded to Oakland for Brandon Moss at the end of 2014.
But the A’s simply didn’t have a place for the Wilmington, DE native in their big league lineup. So, when Tampa Bay came calling, Oakland agreed to the trade.
The A’s loss was the Rays’ huge gain.
After putting together a very strong spring training in 2018, Kevin Cash awarded Wendle a spot on the opening day roster. The career second baseman would platoon with Daniel Robertson at his normal position but would also be pegged into the lineup wherever he was needed.
Welcome to Tampa Bay, Mr. Wendle.
The 28-year old rookie took the opportunity and ran with it all the way to a fourth-place finish in the AL ROY race.
By the end of 2018, Wendle had played 101 games at second base, 20 at third, 10 at shortstop and 34 in the outfield, a position he’d never really played before Kevin Cash asked. Oh, and he also brought home the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association’s Heart and Hustle award by mid-summer.
Meet Joey Baseball, Tampa Bay.
Let’s dig into the numbers and discover how a rookie can possibly make an organization’s top five franchise second basemen.
Defensively, Wendle played 771.1 innings at 2B, making only four errors in his 375 chances. He assisted in 222 outs and 57 double plays, ending the season with a franchise best .989 fielding percentage for every day second basemen.
Offensively, Wendle ranked among the top ten of American League hitters in 2018. With his .300 BA, he finished 8th in the AL. His six triples were eighth most in the AL and his 10 sacrifice flies landed him in second place in the league. Not bad for a rookie.
As far as comparing him with other Rays’ greats at 2B, Wendle more than holds his own. His .789 OPS is best among the High-Five. He is tops in batting average, slugging percentage (.435) and fielding percentage.
And Wendle has one thing the other High-Fivers do not: time. He is still a young man with potentially a decade’s worth of play (potentially, all with the Tampa Bay Rays) ahead of him.
Additionally, in January of 2019, the MLB Network named Wendle as No. 7 in their Top Ten Second Basemen Right Now. Not bad for a guy who’s only clocked 134 career games at the position.
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Yes, the future is bright for Wendle, and I, for one, hope he lights up second base at the Trop for many years to come. Let us Tampa Bay Rays’ fans bask in the promise that is Joey Wendle. Oh, and let’s give him spot No. 3 on the High-Five. Call it an investment in the future.
Next, on the High-Five, a red-bearded gentleman stops by.