Joyce is Enjoying the View at the Summit of the MLB Mountain

You knew the moment you first heard the distinctive sound of the ball of his bat Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Matt Joyce had ” it” within him. You always suspected that the burning fires ran deep and that his true passion for this game ran white hot. Suddenly Fantasy gurus around the Major Leagues are starting to chatter about his name, but we always knew he just needed reps in the box to prove he is no platoon player.


And I do not mean that as a disrespectful phrase, but before his recent outburst square onto the MLB radar, some started to label him as a ” specialist”, possibly downgrading his skill set in the process. But we know that is not what got Joyce red hot in the last few months, it more an extended amount of playing time by his Rays Skipper Joe Maddon that finally showed everyone outside of the Rays Republic that Joyce can smash a left-hander as well as a rightie any day of the week.

Amazing that coming into this off day for the Rays, Joyce is leading the Major Leagues in batting average (.367) a full 18 points above the second player, St. Louis Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday (.349). Even more impressive is the fact Joyce has now led the American League in hitting for over 10 days.

 TEN Days. Think about that for a moment. Here is a guy who some had destined as a platoon positional player back in the Spring, but is having the ball come to the plate looking like a neon softball and he is hitting it all over the place. 10 days shows that a pattern is beginning to develop. Sure Joyce possibly can not keep this torrid pace up, but it suffices to say with a .429 average while hitting safely in 22 of his last 25 games, Joyce could pitch his tent in Rightfield.

Joyce has always had a great knack of destroying right-handed hurlers and is currently leads the Majors with a .397 average against righties. To put Joyce’s achievement into a further enlightened prospective, Joyce’s current 1.071 OPS ranks 3rd overall within Major League Baseball, and only Cardinals surprise Lance Berkman (1.113 OPS) and Toronto’s Jose Bautista boast a higher OPS at this moment.

Sure people are going to point immediately towards Joyce’s dismal .190 average against Southpaws, but with time, that stat also will see a nice rise as he gets comfortable and having a veteran leftie-killer like Johnny Damon ( .286 average) next to you on the bench, sooner or later something is going to rub off and click within Joyce’s left-on-left battles.

When you are riding a 5-game hitting streak where you are slugging the ball at a current .471 average and have been helping with run production with a .407 average with Runners In Scoring Position, you might a few extra hacks against the lefties in the AL. But this is the potential we have been waiting patiently to surface in Joyce for the past two seasons.

There have been glimpses of the magic, but like a sparkler, it faded with time. For some reason this time feels a bit different. His hitting chart shows a little more of a spread pattern, and the sound of the ball off his bat just sounds different. Possibly the “softball” analogy might be happening to Joyce right now, and he will take it and plaster a few all around the ballpark.

This is the latest in a MLB Season that a Rays has held that coveted top spot in the American League in hitting. A few years ago former Rays SS Jason Bartlett had his time trying to maintain a bit of consistency, but finally fell by the wayside.

Joyce could also see a bit of a slide, but already he is on pace for a career high batting average, a new high in MLB Home Runs and RBI, plus a chance to shatter the 92-game mark he posted in Detroit back in 2008.

Right now the Tampa-born Joyce is enjoying his new found fame, soaking up everything he can learn from Damon, and basking in the cheers as he heads out nightly in Rightfield. It’s always great to see a guy hit is potential, even better to see him blast past it and explode on the MLB scene with gusto.

6 Comments

I hadn’t realized that he was a hometown boy. That makes a great story just a little bit better.
-Keleigh

Keleigh,
He went to high school about 5 minutes outside Tampa at Armwood HS. Joyce was actually in the stands as a kid and saw a lot of the first Rays team play at the Trop. Joyce can now check off the dream of playing in front of friends and family that most guys never get a chance to do on a daily basis. I actually had his 2nd HR ball, but Rays Radio guy Rich Herrera guilted me into giving it to someone …Right Melissa.

And to think the kid is still making less than $500K. The beauty of baseball is that there are guys like this who are doing it because they work hard and want to prove themselves, not just to make the big bucks and be lazy.
 
-Avi M
 
2131 and Beyond: The games. The news. The experiences. The Orioles.
 

Avi,
Joyce doesn’t go to arbitration until 2012, which he will either explode and the Rays tie him up with an extended contract, or he burns out and they trade him or let him fly like Dioner Navarro.
Think the guy will slide upwards this season and next, but there will be a lot of difficult decisions in 2012 with holdover guys getting rightious bucks…..

Joyce is the man. The Rays have so many kids I watched in the minors, and am glad that they are doing so well. I think the Tigers are kicking themselves a bit for trading him.
–Mike
‘Minoring In Baseball’

Mike,
The frightening thing is the Rays have a bevy of picks in the first 2 rounds of next weeks draft.
They will not only restock the minors, but have great trade chips to find alternatives or short term options in the near future….That is a good problem to have.

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