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Oakland A's 2017 top-50 prospect scouting report: Joey Wendle, 2B

Our Oakland A's 2017 top-50 prospects list is out. Now find out more about the players on that list. In this piece, a close look at top-50 prospect Joey Wendle. Wendle reached the big leagues in 2016. Can he stick there in 2017?

Name: Joey Wendle
Position: 2B
Height/Weight: 6’1’’, 195
Bats/Throws: L/R
Age: 26
How Acquired: Acquired from the Cleveland Indians in Dec. 2014

In his second year as a member of the Oakland A’s organization, Joey Wendle earned the call to the big leagues. Now that he has broken that barrier, can the second baseman find a permanent home in the major leagues? After a 2015 season with the Nashville Sounds that saw him earn post-season All-Star status, Wendle was surprisingly left off of the A’s September call-up list. He was added to the A’s 40-man roster that off-season, however, and finally made his major-league debut with the A’s in August. Wendle was the A’s regular second baseman for much of September and finished his first stint in the big leagues with a .260/.298/.302 slashline in 96 at-bats.

Wendle’s rise to the big leagues with the A’s looked in peril early in the 2016 season. Like many of the Sounds’ position players, Wendle got off to a slow start at the plate. His slow start lasted longer than many of his teammates’, however, and he found himself with an uncharacteristic .235/.277/.395 line at the start of June. Things picked up for Wendle in a hurry after that. He finished the year with three strong months for Nashville, posting OPSs of 802, 822 and 909 for June, July and August, respectively.

Joey Wendle Stats

2012 Mahoning Valley 245 .327 .375 .469 4 15 25 4
2013 Carolina 413 .295 .372 .513 16 44 79 10
2014 Akron 336 .253 .311 .414 8 26 56 4
2014 AZL Indians 22 .455 .538 .591 0 4 4 1
2015 Nashville 577 .289 .323 .442 10 22 114 12
2016 Nashville 491 .279 .324 .452 12 26 112 14
2016 Oakland 96 .260 .298 .302 1 6 16 2
Career (MiLB) 2084 .288 .340 .459 50 137 390 45

When all was said and done, Wendle actually had a better season with Nashville in 2016 than he did in 2015, despite the slow start. Wendle improved his ISO, his walk rate, his OBP and his SLG over 2015. He also improved on defense, becoming more sure-handed and cutting his error total in half despite playing fewer games for Nashville at second in 2016.

Wendle has always hit for average throughout his career. He holds a career minor league average of .288 and has only one season during which he hit below .279. Wendle has also shown flashes of power, reaching double-digits in homeruns in three of his four full seasons (the fourth season was limited to 93 games thanks to a hamate bone injury). As a hitter, Wendle’s biggest weakness has been his walk-rate. He has seen his strike-out-to-walk rate climb higher every year of his career. Wendle sees a lot of pitches thanks to his ability to make enough contact to spoil off pitches, but his aggressiveness can put him into a lot of pitcher’s counts.

Nashville hitting and infield coach Eric Martins says that Wendle will always be an aggressive hitter and that the A’s are loathe to take that aggressiveness away from him. Martins says that during the last two-and-a-half months of the 2016 season, Wendle began to do a better job of laying off unhittable pitches.  

He has the ability to hit and touch any pitch. Its a good trait to have but it is also your biggest enemy because maybe you start swinging out of the zone when you are ahead in the count. You go from maybe being 3-1 to fouling off a pitch out of the zone and being at 2-2,” Martins said. “That was the thing that I worked with him this year. It wasnt a matter of asking him to walk more. It was more a matter of working with him to be more selective. He has that ability to touch baseballs but there would be times where he would come up and thered be a 2-0 pitch and hed swing at a slider and pop-up or something like that.

“We worked on honing in his selectivity, while still allowing him to be aggressive. With the Oakland As, we are known for walking but we are known for walking because we are selective hitters, not because we are passive. Thats the thing with Joey. Hes so aggressive, its hard for a hitting coach to take away that aggressiveness. You just have to show him his batted balls in play chart and show him videos of where he is ahead in the count and he swung at a pitchers pitch for him to see okay, youre right. I shouldnt have swung at this pitch because my approach is telling me to do something different even though it looked like I pitch that I could handle. I think that was the next phase for him that clicked in the second half of the year.

One of the biggest improvements Wendle made was against left-handed pitching. In 2015, he had a .279 average versus lefties, but hit with very little power. In 2016, he actually hit better versus southpaws than he did against right-handers, and he slugged .541 against same-hand pitchers. He hit better against lefties than righties in his brief MLB stint, as well. Wendles ability to hit both lefties and righties will bode well for him as he competes to play everyday in the big leagues.

Wendles first taste of the big leagues showed flashes of promise and highlighted areas in which he needed work. He hit for a solid average (.260), but walked only six times in 96 at-bats and his OBP was far too low (.298) to be at the top of the As line-up. The power he showed in the minor leagues wasnt there for much of his first big league stint, which was likely a product of looking to make contact rather than being more selective and waiting for balls he could drive. His history in the minor leagues would suggest that as he gains more experience against big league pitching, Wendle will develop a better feel for which pitches to pull the trigger on and which ones to let go.

Joey is one of the hardest working kids around. Great make-up. Tremendous attitude. Lunch pail demeanor. Brings it everyday. Hard 90 down the line. You cant help but root for him on a daily basis, Oakland As Assistant GM Billy Owens said. I believe hes smart enough to make adjustments and I believe he is underrated as an athlete, as well.

Defensively, there is an argument to be made that he is already the best option at second base on the As 40-man roster. He has improved his footwork on double-plays and increased his range up the middle over his past two seasons with the As. Wendle has drawn favorable comparisons to former As second baseman Eric Sogard, who was an above-average defender at second.

Much like Sogard, Wendle has been pigeon-holed at second base for much of his minor league career. The As moved Sogard to shortstop while he was in Triple-A to increase his versatility, but Wendle has yet to suit up at short for the As. He did spend the winter playing short in Mexico and the initial reviews were positive. Wendle isnt likely to ever be an everyday option at shortstop, but if he can be passable there, he will increase his chances of sticking with the As on Opening Day. The As have a few potential options for second base long-term, but Wendle could put himself in a strong position to be that player longterm with a strong 2017 season.

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