MATT JOYCE, CORNER OUTFIELDER
|Born: August 3, 1984
Drafted: 12th Round, 360th Overall, 2005 (Tigers)
How Acquired: Minor League Free Agent
College: Florida Southern College
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|A 12th round draft pick, Joyce has never been regarded as having better than average tools, but he’s had a solid career as a platoon outfielder who hits for decent power with a good walk rate. He had a big year in 2011, but declined steadily after that. He hasn’t hit for much power since 2013, although he maintained a high walk rate until 2015. He’s had only limited exposure to LHPs — just 382 plate apperances, as opposed to 2,435 against RHPs — and his managed only a .554 OPS against them, compared to .795 against RHPs. Early in his career, he had average speed and was above-average defensively, but now he’s probably a little below average in both areas. He’s split his time roughly evenly between left and right. The Pirates signed him to a minor league deal for 2016.
Joyce got off to a good start in his pro career, hitting for average and very good plate discipline, with a low K rate. Baseball America rated him the 27th best prospect in Detroit’s system after the season.
Joyce didn’t have an impressive season in low A, but still ranked 23rd, according to BA, in the Tigers’ weak farm system. He was hurt by playing his home games at a strong pitcher’s park.
The Tigers jumped Joyce up to AA and he recovered very well after a rough first two months in which he hit .193. He hit .293 after that, with 13 of his 17 HRs. For the season, his K rate was up considerably from the lower minors. BA ranked him #7 among the Tigers’ prospects.
Joyce opened the season in AAA and hit very well there, leading to a callup in May. He ended up splitting the season evenly between AAA and the majors, putting up big numbers in AAA and very good numbers, especially the power output, for Detroit. After the season, the Tigers traded Joyce to Tampa Bay.
For some reason, the Rays left Joyce in AAA most of the year, despite the fact that they got very little production from two outfield spots and from the DH.
Joyce opened the season in AAA, but struggled through much of April and May with an elbow strain. He also suffered a shoulder injury in June. The Rays finally called him up for good at the beginning of July. He played regularly against RHPs the rest of the season, mostly in right, and hit for good power with a high walk rate.
Joyce finally spent a full season in the majors and, at age 26 (often a peak age for hitters), had easily his best season. He hit for good power, reduced his K rate and even stole bases effectively, while gaining an All-Star selection. Joyce got 101 plate appearances against LHPs, but posted only a .657 OPS against them.
Joyce fell off from the previous year, especially his power production, although his walk rate increased. He missed time in June and July with back problems.
Joyce had about the same season as 2012.
Joyce declined further, hitting only half as many HRs in about the same number of plate appearances. After the season, the Rays traded him to the Angels.
Joyce had a rough year with the Angels, with his offense falling off a cliff. He suffered a concussion in late July and was out for over a month, but he was struggling badly at the plate before that. His walk rate dropped and he was hurt by an extremely low .215 BABIP. He hit significantly fewer line drives and hard-hit balls than at any time previously. The Angels declined to offer Joyce a contract after the season and he signed a minor league deal with the Pirates.
Joyce had a good spring and made the team as the fourth outfielder. Injuries to Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte got him a fair amount of playing time and he was also the team’s preferred pinch hitter, appearing in that role in exactly half of the team’s games. Clint Hurdle largely kept him away from LHPs and he had only 42 plate appearances against them. Joyce ended up having a very strong season, or at least a very strong first four months. At the end of July, he had a 286/413/558 line. After that, he stopped hitting almost entirely, batting just .167 and slugging .298 over the last two months. He did, however, draw walks at an extraordinary rate, in 24.6% of his plate appearances. For the year, he accomplished the rare feat of having more walks than hits. He had a .432 OBP as a pinch hitter and also hit four pinch HRs.
Like Sean Rodriguez, Joyce probably played himself into a much better contract, possibly in a platoon role, although teams may want to check out his last two months closely. He wouldn’t make a lot of sense for the Pirates, with John Jaso likely to fill a bench role and Austin Meadows likely to come up at some point during the season.
|Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 2005
MLB Debut: 5/5/2008
MiLB FA Eligible: 2016
MLB FA Eligible: 2016
Rule 5 Eligible: Eligible
Added to 40-Man: May 5, 2008
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2008, 2009, 2010)
MLB Service Time: 6.123
|June 7, 2005: Drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 12th round, 360th overall pick; signed on June 9.
May 5, 2008: Contract purchased by the Detroit Tigers.
December 10, 2008: Traded by the Detroit Tigers to the Tampa Bay Rays for Edwin Jackson.
December 16, 2014: Traded by the Tampa Bay Rays to the Los Angeles Angels for Kevin Jepsen.
November 2, 2015: Became a free agent.
February 18, 2016: Signed as a minor league free agent by the Pittsburgh Pirates.