When the Oakland A’s traded All-Star Brandon Moss for a player not on the Cleveland Indians’ 40-man roster, many writers – including this one – were skeptical about the return. While Joey Wendle still has plenty to prove, he has made a strong first impression on his new organization this spring and he has positioned himself as the second baseman of the future for the A’s.
Wendle has risen quickly up the prospect ranks. A sixth-round pick out of West Chester (PA) in 2012 by the Indians, Wendle established himself as one of the Tribe’s better prospects by posting an 844 OPS in 2012 in the New York-Penn League and then following up that performance with an even better season at High-A in 2013. That year, Wendle posted an 885 OPS with 16 homers in 107 games.
In 2014, Wendle spent most of the season with Double-A Akron. He got off to a slow start and then just as he was starting to warm up at the plate, he broke his hamate bone and was shut down for several weeks. Wendle returned to action for the final month of the season, but he admits that he wasn’t at full strength. Wendle’s overall numbers in Double-A were down from his previous seasons, as he hit .253/.311/.414 in 87 games.
Wendle says the wrist hasn’t been an issue thus far this season.
“I didn’t feel like strength-wise and confidence-wise that I was quite there towards the end of last season,” Wendle said. “I definitely felt that it wasn’t affecting me this spring training. Every once in awhile, it will remind me that it is there, but it never really feel like it affects me anymore.”
Wendle was a non-roster invitee to big league spring training during his first spring with the A’s. He remained on the big league camp roster until March 22. In 35 at-bats, Wendle hit .286 with a .342 OBP. He drew rave reviews from A’s manager Bob Melvin for his work in his first camp with Oakland.
Wendle says the transition to the A’s organization was an easy one.
“Everyone seemed really accepting of me,” Wendle said. “I was under the impression coming in that I would be getting to know everybody. Instead, it seemed like everybody was getting to know each other. There were a lot of new faces in there. The coaching staff, along with the new and veteran players, made it a very easy transition. They were very welcoming. That was definitely encouraging.”
Although Wendle’s baseball life took a significant turn in December when he was traded for the first time, the trade was the second-most significant event of his off-season. He got married on October 25th. Wendle was also on the move throughout the off-season. He was living with his parents for the first few weeks and then moved to Greensboro, North Carolina, after the wedding to be with his wife. In December, his wife graduated from grad school and the newlyweds picked up their lives and moved to Durham, North Carolina.
“We did a good deal of moving and I ended up living in three different places, but I was able to find places to consistently work out,” Wendle said. “It was a little hectic. We had a lot of stuff going on other than the trade. There was a lot going on, but I was super excited and I am super thankful for the opportunity.”
Wendle spent his time in big league camp trying to learn as much as he could from the more veteran players on the A’s roster.
“Anytime you are in a situation like that where you are around guys who have been in the game for so long, you just try to soak it up,” Wendle said. “From the coaching staff, they are there if you need it, but for me, I’m just learning from the veterans. Learning from the guys who have been around. Learning how to do things the way that they do things. It seems to be an organization that does things the right way, so it was pretty easy to learn from those guys, as well as taking away my own thoughts on what I think is the right way to go about things.”
Wendle has been known more for his offense than his defense as a pro, but he has worked hard to improve with the glove at second base. He felt very comfortable with the speed of the big league spring games at second and believes he has made significant progress with his defense.
“I feel that my reads are improving and my arm is improving and my range,” Wendle said. “That was encouraging for me. That kind of let me know that my off-season work is moving in the right direction. I came in feeling pretty comfortable.”
Wendle has a reputation for being an old-school, hard-nosed player. He also looks the part because he doesn’t use batting gloves at the plate. Wendle says he has tried using them but has never felt comfortable with them on.
“I’m to the point where if I get a bad blister and absolutely have to use them, I can, but for the most part, I don’t feel that comfortable using them,” Wendle said.
Although Wendle and Moss play different positions, Wendle knows that his name will be connected with Moss because of the trade. He says he was honored to have been traded for a player the caliber of Moss.
“Everything I hear about him and I know about him as a player and as a person, it seems like he was very valuable to this organization,” Wendle said. “It’s definitely an honor to be traded for him.”