Wednesday is a big day for the Oakland A’s. The primary news is that they traded away Coco Crisp, their fan favorite and longest-tenured player. But there is another headline sitting in their lineup:
Batting seventh and making his MLB debut is second baseman Joey Wendle. The 26-year-old spent the last two seasons putting up league-average batting lines in Triple-A, and now he’s finally getting his chance in Oakland.
Wendle is a well-rounded player who is a jack of all trades but master of none. He hits for a solid average, which helps him get on base a bit despite a low walk rate. He isn’t a slugger, but he has enough power to rack up doubles and pop a few homers. Reviews of his defense are generally average-to-positive, but he only plays one position. There isn’t one overriding strength or one dealbreaker weakness.
One thing going for Wendle right now is that he’s red-hot. He’s been hitting well for a while, with an .847 OPS since the beginning of June and at least an .800 mark in each of the last three months. In August he’s at .909 (.340/.381/.528), and over his current nine-game hitting streak he’s 21-for-43 (.488 average).
It’s refreshing to see Wendle getting the nod in the lineup immediately after his call-up. The A’s have been doing weird stuff at second base lately, with corner infielder Max Muncy getting a lot of playing time while top prospect Chad Pinder rots on the bench and dynamic talent Arismendy Alcantara (not to mention Wendle) toils in the minors. There is value to giving Muncy reps at 2B to increase his utility value, but it seems like an odd thing to prioritize at this precise moment. Pinder had to wait a couple days after his own call-up to make his first start, so maybe Wendle’s quick debut is a sign that the A’s are ready to get serious about their rebuild and start looking for a long-term starter.
Forst says LH-hitting Wendle and Pinder likely to platoon at 2B, with Muncy now getting more OF time. Muncy also option to spell Healy.— Joe Stiglich (@JoeStiglichCSN) August 31, 2016
One final thing about Wendle is that he’s often lauded for his intangibles -- personality, makeup, work ethic, etc. Everyone seems to love Joey The Person. As such, it’s not at all surprising to see reactions like this one:
Said it last night. I'm happy for anyone getting even 1 day in bigs. But not sure I've been happier about a call-up than am for Joey Wendle.— Jeff Hem (@JeffHemPBP) August 31, 2016
It’s somehow fitting that today would be the day for Wendle’s debut. He was the prospect the A’s received from the Indians for Brandon Moss, another popular All-Star — at the time he seemed like an underwhelming return, and we’re still yet to even see him play in the bigs. Even if you agree that the club was right to move Moss when it did, it’s hard not to be disappointed that the guy they got back hasn’t contributed. But now he’s here, and all it took was the departure of a second beloved star to Cleveland to clear a roster spot.
Welcome, Joey! Good luck on your first day!