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 kickoff 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 came into spring training 2007 ready to roll, and he did just that; blowing away the brass to earn a massive promotion to Double-A Erie to star the season. After getting off to an abysmal start – being only a few games away from a demotion – Joyce turned it on in the second half. Matt's resurgence started in June, and continued through the remainder of the season, posting a .292/.363/.525 line from June 1st through the end of the season.
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 in the very near future.
Joyce is another classic corner outfield, with the arm for right, but the instincts, athleticism, and speed to handle left field in spacious Comerica Park. Former Manager Matt Walbeck likened Joyce's overall ability to that of Jim Edmonds, and having already impressed the front office types in Detroit, he could get a chance in Detroit by the start of 2009.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% AA
Joyce has been completely healthy throughout his collegiate and professional careers. He has an exceptional work ethic, strong workout regimen, and an extremely athletic body, all qualities that should lead to durability throughout his career.
Joyce enters spring training with a chance at the Toledo roster, but with several veterans ahead of him, he is more likely to head back to Double-A Erie for the start of the season. With Clete Thomas alongside in center, whichever team they play on will have two of the strongest outfield arms in the league. Joyce has struggled at the start of the last two seasons, and he will need to put together a complete campaign to really give himself a chance to become Jacque Jones' replacement in Detroit.
Joyce has the talent, the work ethic, and the believers to become a legitimate Major League outfielder, but he will have to make strides in controlling the strike zone and keeping his focus at all times to fulfill his potential. Look for Joyce to put together another strong season in 2008, and pay close attention to how he starts the season; as that could be a telling sign for any improvements he has made throughout the offseason.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.