The Tigers were very familiar with Joyce heading into the 2005 draft. Each spring, the Tigers play his alma mater, Florida Southern, in a game to kick off spring training. Matt had done enough in those brief stints in front of the Tiger brass, and during his three year collegiate career to garner plenty of interest from David Chadd and the rest of the scouting department. While at Southern, Joyce posted a career line of .306/.396/.501, and even posted an impressive .309/.396/.593 line with Danbury of the New England Collegiate Baseball League in the summer of 2004. For his efforts at Florida Southern, Matt was named to the NCAA South Regional All-Tournament Team in 2003, and 2nd Team All-South Region and 1st Team All-SSC in 2004.
Joyce's debut with Oneonta in 2005 went very well, as he posted one of Oneonta's best overall lines since Curtis Granderson's MVP season in 2002. Powered by a red hot August that saw Matt drive in 23 runs in 26 games, while also knocking 10 extra-base hits, Joyce finished his pro debut with a staggering .331/.397/.453 line, and the August TigsTown Player of the Month Award. Despite talk of skipping straight to Lakeland for 2006, Joyce played for the West Michigan Whitecaps and enjoyed a solid season. His overall line looks less than impressive, but he was killed by the pitcher-friendly environment of his home park. Joyce's 75 runs scored ranked him 10th in the challenging Midwest League, and his 86 RBI were good enough for 4th in the circuit. During his strongest month, May, Joyce took home another TigsTown Player of the Month Award; his second in two seasons.
Joyce's tool box is one chock full of solid-average abilities, without one standout tool that can become his calling card. He has above average speed, accented by very good instincts, and a desire to do anything he can to succeed. He plays the game intelligently, but still plays with an aggression all too rare in today's game. He is a good fielder with a strong arm in the outfield, and he takes proper routes to balls hit to all parts of the field. He is an extremely positive player that learns from his mistakes and rarely gets down on himself or his teammates.
At the plate, Matt has exceptional hand-eye coordination that allows him to control the strike zone and keep his strikeouts down. Unlike many players with his level of coordination, Joyce has no problem laying off borderline pitches and taking walks. This compliment of skills allows him to remain patient at the plate, and carry a consistent approach throughout the at-bat. His frame is slight and he must add strength to continue hitting for power at the professional level, but he does have room to fill out and add strength without becoming bulky. He has the potential to become a 20-25 homerun guy annually, with plenty of doubles, and that power could begin to come out at Lakeland in 2007.
As Joyce approaches physical maturity, he is unlikely to continue being able to handle centerfield when asked, but will have the ability to play either left or right successfully. He profiles as a guy with the ability to become a solid big league regular, with a development curve much like Granderson's.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% A
Joyce has been completely healthy throughout his collegiate and professional careers.
With a full compliment of outfielders moving up through the system, Joyce's next test will be Lakeland in 2007. The better hitter's environment should allow people to recognize Matt's talent and his numbers should more accurately reflect his level of performance. He has the ability to drive the ball all over the yards of the Florida State League, and I expect that to be the case from the beginning of the season on.
Cameron Maybin is likely to get a call to Erie early in the campaign, and with Clete Thomas and Jeff Frazier also roaming the Erie outfield, Joyce will likely spend the entire season with Lakeland; a move which should benefit him from a confidence and comfort standpoint. Joyce is a bit of a sleeper within prospect circles, but that could quickly change. Expecting a breakout season in 2007 would be a wise move, and I plan to see Joyce moving rapidly up prospect charts after next season.
Mark Anderson covers the Tigers' minor league system and all of minor league baseball for TigsTown.com. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.