Rays News

Will Joey Wendle be with the Rays on Opening Day?

By Austin Reimann
HOUSTON, TEXAS - AUGUST 28: Joey Wendle #18 of the Tampa Bay Rays hits a sacrifice fly ball as Martin Maldonado #12 of the Houston Astros looks on in the second inning at Minute Maid Park on August 28, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - AUGUST 28: Joey Wendle #18 of the Tampa Bay Rays hits a sacrifice fly ball as Martin Maldonado #12 of the Houston Astros looks on in the second inning at Minute Maid Park on August 28, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /
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The Tampa Bay Rays roster is now loaded with left handed hitters and the likelihood that Joey Wendle is on the Opening Day roster seems to grow slimmer each day.

The arrival of Japanese slugger and left handed hitter, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, may be the last nail in Joey Wendle’s coffin. That coffin has been collecting nails ever since his first season in a Rays uniform, during which, Brandon Lowe quickly rose thought the minor league ranks and made his debut with the Rays on August 4th,  2018.

Lowe’s debut was just the first nail. Then came the extension that the then 24-year-old rookie second baseman received, which ran through the 2024 season and included options for 2025 and 2026. The next nail was slowly but surely hammered into the coffin over the duration of a 2019 season that saw Wendle struggle to stay healthy and produce while Brandon Lowe enjoyed a breakout first half.

Lowe too struggled to stay healthy and missed a majority of the second half but still managed to finish 3rd in the Rookie of the Year voting.

Joey Wendle’s 2019:

  • 75 G
  • .231/.293/.340
  • .633 OPS // 70 OPS+
  • 3 HR // 19 RBI

Brandon Lowe’s 2019:

  • 82 G
  • .270/.336/.514
  • .850 OPS // 124 OPS+
  • 17 HR // 51 RBI

Lowe will enter 2020 healthy and ready to receive a majority of the playing time at second base. Wendle will have to compete with Daniel Robertson and Micheal Brosseau for time in the infield and the latter two likely already have a step up on Wendle as both hit from the right side.

While Lowe’s emergence as an all-star second baseman should have Wendle worrying, the Rays roster which is loaded with left-handed hitters, should worry him more. The signing of Tsutsugo and the acquisition of O’Grady will make it all the more difficult for Wendle to crack the opening day roster.

Rays left-handed hitters:

  • Yoshitomo Tsutsugo
  • Brandon Lowe
  • Kevin Kiermaier
  • Austin Meadows
  • Ji-Man Choi
  • Micheal Perez
  • Nate Lowe
  • Brian O’Grady
  • Joey Wendle 

Furthermore, four of the eight left-handed hitters not named Wendle, play in the infield. Wendle may see some time at third base, but Tsutsugo could also see time there as well. Brandon Lowe will receive a majority of the innings at second base and if he isn’t playing it is likely that the Rays would go with a right-handed hitter such as Robertson or Brosseau.

Rays hitters looking to bounce back in 2020. dark. Next

Finally, if the Rays do go out and find an additional right-handed hitter, chances are they will do away with one of the left-handed hitters and Wendle is the least imposing of them all and likely the most expendable with Robertson, Brosseau, and Lowe already on the roster. After a rough 2019 season, it is likely that Joey Wendle is on thin ice. Don’t be surprised if he isn’t in a Rays uniform come opening day.

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